Lady Cougars end season with loss to Sumter at Final Four
By By James Crawford
The Escambia Academy Lady Cougars were ready to claw their way through the Sumter Academy Lady Eagles on Thursday night to get to the championship game on Friday, but a little bad luck declawed their best attempts and the Lady Cougars bowed to Sumter 50-40 in the AISA Class 2A State Semifinals at Huntingdon College.
Sumter took the ball on jump off and Lady Eagle Morgan Johnson took it to the hoop for two. The Lady Eagles followed up almost immediately with two more and held the Lady Cougars scoreless for several minutes into the first quarter.
EA's Lori Bonds ended the drought with a basket after an offensive rebound from a failed shot. Meagan Jackson put up two more to tie the game halfway in the first.
Bonds made a clever bounce pass under the outstretch arms of a Sumter defender to Jessica Gibbs, who dutifully bounced one in for the two point lead.
But the Lady Cougars couldn't hang on. With just under five seconds left in the first, a foul sent Sumter's Meagan Hester to the line. Hester was good for one to give Sumter a one point lead of 9-8 as the buzzer sounded.
EA took charge in the second quarter and racked up a lead that it held onto for half of the quarter. Sumter's Paige Ray ended the domination with a two-point basket that tied the game at 16.
Lady Cougar Jackson stole the ball with just over a minute left to play in the half and drove to the basket but the ball spun out. Sumter's Heather Moody dropped in two points and fellow teammate Kate Cartwright follow up with a quick steal for an easy basket to give Sumter a four point lead with just under a minute to play.
EA drew several fouls but failed to put anything on the boards at the line until Anna Parish added one after drawing a foul to inch the Cougars to within three of Sumter's 24-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.
At the start of the second half, Sumter took control on both sides of the board, scoring almost immediately. The Lady Eagles drew a foul on the basket and added insult to injury with one more from the line.
With the Lady Cougars deflated, Sumter racked up an eight point lead until Parish stepped in to save a score and stop the Lady Eagle run. Bonds drew a foul on the return play and added one more from the line to make it a seven point ballgame with just over four minutes left in the third.
The game went back and forth for several minute with EA never able to gain a foothold against the pounding Sumter defense. With just under a minute left in the third Parish went to the line and punched in one. The Lady Cougars grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Rayleen Miller who dropped in three from the top right of the circle to make the score 29-36, with EA trailing.
The action became tense as EA drew several fouls in the remaining seconds but couldn't capitalize on them. Parish lobs one up for a sure basket only to watch it slip out as the buzzer rang to a Sumter lead of 36-29.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Sumter again took possession and answered EA's big three at the end of the third with three of their own from the corner to make it a 10 point game.
The Lady Eagles continued to score until Parish stepped up with a steal that resulted in a lay-up to give the Lady Cougars hope as they trailed by only nine with just over four minutes left.
Sumter makes a pivotal mistake and is called for traveling with a foul. EA goes to the line but again couldn't drop one in. EA keeps trying with a steal on the rebound play but after a failed attempt at a basket, Sumter steals it right back and drives it to the rim for two and they failed to get it in. EA recovered the ball and returned it for momentous two points.
With just under a minute and a half left in the game, the score was 45-34, Sumter's lead. Both teams had fouled out and were trying to avoid calls but kept getting them, Sumter capitalizing on their and EA continued to struggle at the line.
Jackson dropped in three with 45 seconds left and Bonds followed up with a steal but missed the accompanying shot.
EA recovered the offensive rebound and Miller put it up for three to close the gap to 40-47 with 20 seconds left in the game.
Sumter drew a foul and went back to the line to end the struggle with a 50-40 win over the Lady Cougars to end EA's season with a 23-5 record.
Bonds led the scoring for EA with 13 points. Jackson added 11 and Miller added six to the effort.
"The results of this game don't do anything to change the way I feel about these girls. I'm still very proud of them. They are a classy group of girls with a lot of heart. They have a lot of bright things ahead of each of them. We just dug ourselves in a hole and couldn't get out," EA Lady Cougar Head Coach Chad Prewitt said.