Area tourney champs

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2006

By By Matthew Nascone
The fans inside the Escambia County High School gymnasium were excited and loud Monday night and for good reason, their team had just won the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 4A Area 1 tournament championship game.
The No. 6 Blue Devils grabbed the lead from No. 10 UMS-Wright at 10-8 and never relinquished it again for the entire game, winning by a final of 58-43.
"We really came out and played hard," ECHS head coach Jerome Antone said. "These guys told me before the game that they had my back and I didn't need to worry and they were right."
The first quarter ended with a 15-15 tie, but the game was controlled by the Blue Devils from the beginning of the second quarter to the final buzzer.
The defensive prowess of the Blue Devils was showcased in this game and it was definitely recognized by the coach.
"We started out on a full-court press, but we had to switch to a man all over the floor when the press was not working," Antone said. "We created a lot of turnovers and our defense made opportunities for our offense. That is the greatest defense we have played all year."
The game plan for the Bulldogs was to shut down Calvin Hartley, but they must not have been listening to what Antone has been saying all year.
"I have been saying that any one of our starting five can step up and contribute for us and Quartez James did just that tonight," Antone said. "They tried to shut down Calvin and Quartez stepped up big for us."
James had 24 points in the win.
"It feels good to win this game and especially since they brought their cheering section to Atmore," James said. "We had a lot of energy and we played team ball and that is what you have to do to win."
Larry Bowens dropped in 13 points, Hartley added 10 points, Frank Taylor poured in six points, Chris Andrews added four points and Kenny Johnson contributed one point.
James, Hartley, Andrews and Bowens were named to the All-Tournament team.
The tenacity of the Blue Devils' defense can be attributed to other factors.
"We stayed at the Best Western last night and we bonded," assistant coach Marshall Davis said. "Thank God for the Best Western."
Davis said the idea to stay at the Best Western came from when the team stayed in a hotel for the Greenville tournament earlier this year. The team was together and won that tournament so Davis said they tried to duplicate that effect for the area tournament and it seemed to work as the Devils won the area tournament for the first time in 14 years.
The last area tournament victory for ECHS was in the 1991-92 season.
The energetic crowd and unrelenting defense brought the glory of winning the area tournament back to Atmore and Antone said there is one thing that helped the boys the most.
"I would like to applaud the fans for their intensity and support," he said.
The No. 6 Blue Devils host the No. 5 Greene County Tigers Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. in a sub-regional match up.

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