No repeat performance in Jackson

Published 7:10 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
Things looked good for the Escambia County Blue Devils for three quarters Monday night in the AHSAA Class 4A, Area 1 Tournament Championship, but the No. 3-seeded Devils lost their grip of the No. 1-seeded Jackson Aggies in the fourth quarter, losing 76-69.
The Blue Devils' chance at a second straight Area Championship looked right on target as they opened strong on a 9-0 run to open the game on Jackson's home court. They led the Aggies for the entire game until Jackson made a three-pointer with less than 20 seconds to go in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle the Devils were not able to win. ECHS trailed 71-69 with 35 seconds to go in the game and they could not get the tying basket, but ECHS head coach Jerome Antone said the reason for the loss was simple.
"Folks won't listen," Antone said. "I will give it to you plain and simple, folks will not listen. We are down by two points and we are trying to get the ball down in the post, but we have certain kids who would not listen. Coach (Todd Reynolds) gave a speech before the game that we have 30 combined coaching experience between both of us, so therefore you all need to listen and they didn't do that."
After the Devils could not get the basket they had to resort to fouling the Aggies and Jackson's players stepped up and knocked down their free throws.
In the first quarter, ECHS was on fire and seemed to hit every shot they took. They also pressed the Aggies and forced more than five turnovers in the first quarter on the way to a 26-16 lead at the end of the quarter.
ECHS allowed Jackson to creep back into the game several times in the second quarter, but they kept the lead throughout. The momentum seemed to stay with the Blue Devils and they hit the locker room for halftime with a 41-32 lead.
The Aggies opened the second half still looking for a big run, and it came with less than four minutes to go in the third quarter. After the Blue Devils opened their lead to its widest margin of the night at 48-36 the Aggies clawed back and cut the lead to 50-46 on a slam dunk that ignited the crowd with three minutes to go in the quarter.
The intensity of the dunk energized the dormant fans and the shift of momentum could be seen on the faces of the athletes on the court. After ECHS senior Frank Taylor was fouled twice and converted 1-of-4 free throws for a 53-50 ECHS lead, the Aggies drained two consecutive three-pointers to end the quarter and finish a 20-5 run in the final four minutes of the third quarter.
Frank Taylor led the Devils with 25 points. Kingston Craft added 19 points, Katral James contributed 10 points, Shavauhia Knight scored eight points, Anthony Matthews added five points and Josh Adams contributed two points.
The Blue Devils travel to Brewton and face rival T.R. Miller in the sub-regional round of the AHSAA Class 4A State Playoffs Friday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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