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Blue Devils take down No. 8 ranked T.R. Miller in Atmore

By By Matthew Nascone
The No. 6 Escambia County Lady Blue Devils pushed the winning streak to nine games Monday night, as they swept the season series with the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers for the first time in at least 10 years. Atmore was not looking as sharp as normal in the first quarter, as they trailed 6-5 at the end of the quarter, but the Lady Devils (21-5, 5-0) won in decisive fashion, 44-33.
"Well, we knew it was going to be a battle, and it was," ECHS head coach Todd Reynolds said. "Their strategy is a slow down game and they did that to us in the first quarter, but our defense is good enough to adjust and we did."
Reynolds said the normal formula for success this season was in place.
"We got our three scorers in double digits," he said.
The play of the girls off the bench also caught Reynolds' eye and he was proud of his entire team for stepping up and playing well against the rival Lady Tigers.
"I received good bench play out of Timeka Crimbley and Latesha Lee and Courtney English also played really well," Reynolds said. "And Jasmine Sanders had a good game."
The Lady Devils trailed 6-5 after the first quarter, but they grabbed an 18-15 lead by halftime and increased that lead to 30-23 at the end of the third quarter after opening the quarter on a 6-0 run.
Miller cut the lead to 33-27 early in the fourth quarter, but they never got closer than three points the rest of the quarter and ECHS opened the lead up and ran through the finish line at 44-33.
Sanders had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Ashley Kidd added 14 points, English scored 10 points and Ashanti Jones and Latesha Lee added two points each.
Lady Blue Devils 55 – Hillcrest 31
The Lady Blue Devils defeated Hillcrest easily, 55-31 Saturday in a non-area game in Atmore.
Jasmine Sanders had 17 points and 16 rebounds, Courtney English scored 13 points, Ashanti Jones added 10 points and eight assists, Ashley Kidd had nine points and eight rebounds.
Lady Blue Devils 61 – Jackson 34
ECHS easily disposed of Jackson High, 61-34 Friday night and Reynolds said the team did not even have a good game.
The Lady Blue Devils clinched the regular season area championship with the victory over Jackson. The area tournament will be played in Atmore on the girls' side of the ball.
"It is nice not to be sharp and still win by 25," Reynolds said. "And you want to put yourself in the best possible situation and playing at home is where the heart is."
Ashley Kidd scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for ECHS. Ashanti Jones had a triple-double with 11 points, 10 assists and 10 steals. Latesha Lee had 10 points and five steals and Courtney English added 12 points and 11 steals.
Lady Devils sweep season series from rival, T.R. Miller
By Matthew Nascone
The rivalry stems back many years, but the Escambia County Blue Devils had an extra incentive to take down the T.R. Miller Tigers 67-64 Monday night, the Tigers were ranked No. 8 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.
And the Blue Devils won in dramatic fashion, with junior Derrick Riley knocking down two clutch free throws to give the Blue Devils a 67-64 lead with 5.5 seconds left in the game.
"I have been telling the guys all season that they need to be ready when their number is called," ECHS head coach Jerome Antone said. "And Derrick responded was ready when his number was called and he iced the game with those two free throws."
Miller made an attempt at tying the score, but to no avail and the sea of Blue swarmed the court in joy and exultation.
"That was a heck of a way to start a winning streak," Antone said.
The game was a back-and-forth battle throughout and the lead changed many times, but Antone said he knew the Blue Devils (2-19, 0-5) would be focused when they needed to be.
"I told them this game was all about playing hard and smart," he said. "We minimized our mistakes and we stayed focused all the way through to the end. And I told them that they might be No. 8 in the state, but this is our house."
The opening quarter of the game saw six lead changes and a slim 17-16 Miller advantage at the end. It seemed as if the Tigers hit their stride in the second quarter and built a seven point advantage, leading 36-29 as the teams entered the locker rooms for halftime.
The momentum switched yet again at the start of the second half and ECHS tied the game at 39-39 with two minutes remaining in the quarter and the lead changed hands many times yet again, ending with Atmore on top, 45-43 at the beginning of the final frame.
As the fourth quarter wore on, the tension in the stands rose and every time either side scored there was an eruption from one part of the gym.
The Blue Devils grabbed a 58-49 lead after Frank Taylor scored on two straight possessions for Atmore. The Blue Devil lead never got above nine and Miller cut that lead to one point at 65-64 with 23 seconds left. Riley knocked down those two free throws after both teams went cold and the rest is history.
Taylor was 14-for-18 from the charity stripe and added seven field goals for a team-leading total of 28 points. Kingston Craft had 17 points, Jarrod Jefferson contributed 10 points, Shavauhia Knight added six points, Riley had five points and Rodney Richardson had one point.
The Blue Devils traveled across the border for part two of the border war with Northview yesterday and the results will be in an upcoming Advance. The Blue Devils host Monroe County in their final Class 4A Area 1 contest Friday night.
Hillcrest 63 – Blue Devils 60
The Blue Devils dropped a close contest Saturday to Hillcrest, 63-60 in a game Antone said ECHS had an opportunity to win.
"We missed 11 free throws in that game and when you do that it is hard to win," Antone said. "It is just one of those things."
Frank Taylor scored 30 points in the game and passed the 1,000-point mark for his high school career. Kingston Craft added 13 points.
Jackson – 83 – Blue Devils 81
The Blue Devils had two opportunities to tie the game in the waning seconds of their 83-81 loss to area foe Jackson High Friday.
"We had two opportunities with five seconds left to tip the ball in, and we missed both of them," Antone said. "But we are not worried because we know the area can go any way in the tournament. I don't believe there is one team a lot better than the rest. If we keep our heads up we can make it to state."
Frank Taylor led the team with 26 points, Kingston Craft added 19 points and James Webster contributed 11 points.