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Devils down 4A's No. 5

By By Matthew Nascone
An explosive offense can only bring good things to a basketball team, and the Escambia County Blue Devils offense blasted the visiting No. 5 Thomasville Tigers to open the first quarter Jan. 15.
The Blue Devils (8-10, 2-2 AHSAA Class 4A, Region 1, Area 1) cooled off, but held on for the 67-64 upset of the area rival Tigers.
"Coach Mitchell has always been telling the guys that basketball is a game of runs," ECHS head coach Anthony Hayes said. "And we started the game off on a big run, then Thomasville came back on us and we had a battle the rest of the night."
ECHS scored the first bucket of the game for a 2-0 lead, but Thomasville tied it at 2-2. The fireworks began shortly after with back-to-back three-pointers by junior James Webster and senior Katral James to ignite the 15-0 run in the first quarter.
The run did not faze the Tigers, as they stormed back with a 14-6 run to end the first quarter. The Blue Devils held a 23-16 lead after the first quarter and a 31-28 lead at halftime. But the Tigers grabbed a 26-25 lead at one point. The score went back and forth twice before the Devils gained a 29-28 lead right before halftime and they did not relinquish that lead the rest of the night.
The Devils withstood the comeback charge of Thomasville, allowing only a 37-37 tie in the third quarter on the way to victory. Hayes said that was great for the team.
"This was a huge win for us and the guys stayed focused all game," he said. "That was the key to the game because they did not get down when the big lead disappeared."
The fast start was a welcome change of pace for Hayes and the Devils.
"In the last couple of games we have come out of the gate flat and we had to use so much energy to get back over that hump," Hayes said. "And we did not get over that hump, but tonight we got to avoid the hump completely and that was great."
Thomasville mounted another comeback when the Devils had pushed the lead to 63-51 late in the fourth quarter. The Tigers hit three three-pointers en route to a 13-4 advantage in the game's final minutes, but it was not enough and the Devils escaped with the victory and the 2-2 area record.
"That was a huge game for us and it has been a long season, but there is not a lot that fazes these guys," Hayes said. "They showed that out there as they hung with the No. 5 team in the state. If they are fourth, fifth, sixth or even No. 1 it does not matter because our guys go out there and play hard every night."
The Devils shot 52 percent from the floor and sophomore Kingston Craft led the way with 22 points, but James added 9 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
Senior James Lykes had 13 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and one steal. Webster had 9 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Sophomore Lawrence Arnold added six points. Deon Frye had 4 points and Johnathan Gholsby added 3 points.
The Blue Devils traveled to Jackson for an area matchup with the Aggies Friday. The team also traveled to Evergreen Saturday to play Hillcrest-Evergreen. The results of both games will be in an upcoming Advance.
Up next for ECHS is a game in Brewton against the rival T.R. Miller Tigers Tuesday. Tip off for the JV boys' game is set for 4:45 p.m.