Historic season ends

Published 7:50 pm Monday, February 26, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
The Escambia County Lady Blue Devils basketball team lost the Class 4A South Region Tournament yesterday at Trojan Arena on the Troy University campus, but the team can look back on the 2006-07 season in a different way.
Under the tutelage of Todd Reynolds the Lady Blue Devils went from a first-round exit in 2006 to the regional championship in 2007, but they also grabbed 27 wins along the way. The previous best for wins by a Lady Devils team was 25 by the 1999-2000 squad.
Reynolds said the record was not in his sights at the beginning of the year, but he is proud to own it.
"Well life is all about setting goals," Reynolds said. "I had never really set that as a goal, but this team will be remembered as the team with the most wins. When you are trying to ease the blow, that is something to tell them."
And the blow came to the tune of a 75-56 loss at the hands of Ashford High School. The Lady Devils (27-7) allowed the most points they allowed all season, but Reynolds said that is because of one fact.
"Our effort was good, but Ashford had players who have been here three years," Reynolds said. "And there is no substitute for experience. My coaching staff and I figured this game would come down to how the game was dictated and it was obviously dictated in a way that we could never get a grasp of. And that is not taking anything away from Ashford, they are an extremely good team, who will probably be in the championship game, but they are even better when they are allowed to play their style."
The season will not end with the Lady Devils hoisting the state championship trophy, but Reynolds said he is proud of his team regardless.
"My players have played hard all year and they hustled all year," Reynolds said. "I have no complaints and I am extremely proud of this year and their accomplishments. But the toughest part of the season starts now in the offseason. We will be getting better for next year. The tears fall because you are losing teammates, but you shouldn't be crying because of your effort or your accomplishments this season."
The final score is not indicative of how the game played out. The Lady Devils were locked in a battle with Ashford for two-and-a-half quarters, but the Ashford press was too much for ECHS and the game got away in the middle of the third quarter.
"I don't know how my girls kept the pressure on, but they did and we pulled it out," said Ashford head coach Terri Gray.
Ashford held an 18-15 lead after the first quarter and a 32-27 advantage when the teams hit the locker room for halftime. That lead ballooned to 49-38 at the end of the third quarter and Ashford went on a 26-18 run in the fourth quarter for the final score of 68-51.
Jasmine Sanders scored 22 points, snagged seven rebounds and blocked five shots in her final game as a Lady Blue Devil. Ashanti Jones had two points, three steals and three rebounds in her final game. Ashley Kidd added 13 points, 10 rebounds and four steals in her final game in blue and white and Kris Culliver score the Lady Blue Devils' final basket for two points in her final game. Courtney English added 10 points.
Sanders and English were named to the Class 4A All-South Region Tournament team. Sanders finished the tournament with 37 points, 22 rebounds and nine blocked shots. English added 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Ashford's Christina Rogers led all scorers with 28 points and Class 4A All-South Region MVP Bethany Hornsby added 27 for Ashford.
Lady Devils victorious in first round
The first trip for the Escambia County Lady Blue Devils to the South Regional Tournament in seven years opened well, with a 68-51 win over the Dadeville Lady Tigers.
ECHS was able to take in the sights of Troy University before squaring off with Dadeville Feb. 21 in Trojan Arena. The Lady Devils fell behind early in the game, trailing 18-14 after the first frame.
But the team got hot and outscored Dadeville, 35-20 in the second half after grabbing a narrow 33-31 lead at halftime. The game played right into ECHS head coach Todd Reynolds' plan.
"In our plan we figured they were a first half type team that really wants to jump out on you quick," Reynolds said. "So our game plan was basically to weather the storm. Our plan was simple, we were going to push the ball all the time and in the second half we converted a lot of layups because we executed that game plan."
The execution of the press was another key point to Reynolds.
"The press only works if players are busting their tail on it," he said. "Tonight we came in on a mission and they did not break it all night. And if something ain't broke, you don't fix it, so we stuck with it."
One particular stretch for ECHS opened the game and made it an uphill battle for the Lady Tigers to climb. The Lady Devils demolished Dadeville in the third quarter with the press after they had "weathered the storm" of the first half. The third quarter belonged to ECHS, as they outscored Dadeville 19-6.
Reynolds said this quarter was the turning point in the game. The fourth quarter was one of playing catchup for Dadeville and the smothering press defense of ECHS kept the Lady Tigers from going on the prowl.
Reynolds said the play from the seniors, especially Ashanti Jones was spectacular in the win.
"Hats off to all my seniors, but especially my shooting guard, Ashanti Jones," Reynolds said. "She came out on fire and had a lights out game. I knew she would have to play well for us to win because they were going to key on Jasmine (Sanders) and that was huge for us."
Jones finished with 15 points, five assists and seven steals. Sanders added 15 points, 15 rebounds, eight steals and four blocked shots. Courtney English led all scorers with 22 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists. Ashley Kidd contributed eight points and Latesha Lee and Megan Hartley scored four points each.

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