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Heartache in Evergreen

By By Matthew Nascone
Playing with the poise and composure of a seasoned veteran, Escambia Academy freshman Taylor Helton did her best to boost the Lady Cougars past the rival Lady Warriors from Sparta Academy Friday night in Evergreen.
Helton was 7-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and added two baskets from the floor for 11 of her 21 points in the waning minutes of the Lady Cougars’ 59-53 loss to Sparta.
It was not smooth sailing for Helton all game, but Payne said she played like a champion when the team needed a spark.
Helton added 20 rebounds and two blocked shots to her 21 points.
Helton’s effort in the fourth quarter combined with a renewed sense of passion from the rest of the team helped the Lady Cougars come within a whisker of turning a 21-point fourth quarter deficit into an unbelievable upset of the No. 4-ranked Lady Warriors.
The Lady Cougars held a lead for most of the first quarter and trailed 25-18 at halftime. Payne said the 22-14 advantage for Sparta in the third quarter was what started the Lady Cougars on that familiar slope.
The Sparta lead grew to 55-34 late in the fourth quarter and the two previous losses this season of 58-40 in Canoe and 70-36 on the very court they were on Friday must have crept into the Lady Cougars’ minds.
But if it did, the thought quickly exited as Helton connected on four straight free throw attempts to spark a 19-4 EA run in the final four minutes of the game. Sophomore Jordan Jaye also had a key steal and score to help the cause and the entire EA crowd, plus the Jackson Academy fans on hand, went nuts.
Jaye had 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Senior Clare Jones contributed six points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist. Sophomore Jennifer Morris had five points and two rebounds. Sophomore Kay Leigh Miller had four points, four steals, three rebounds, three assists and one block.
Junior Alaina Arnold and freshman Amber Huskey each had two points. Arnold added three assists, two rebounds and one steal. Huskey had four rebounds and one assist. Freshman Rachel Fuller had one rebound.
The loss ended the Lady Cougars season, but Payne said the game was not a total loss.