ECHS runs out of time

Published 9:38 am Monday, February 28, 2011

Blue Devils center Andrew Rodgers blocks a shot.|Photo by AJ Beachy

Escambia County went to Mobile on Friday afternoon expecting a battle and a battle is what they got as they faced off with the No. 2 Andalusia Bulldogs (31-2) at the Mitchell Center at the University of South Alabama.

The No. 7 Blue Devils (23-8) met their match in the Bulldogs who came into the game with a 30-2 record under legendary coach Richard Robertson and found a way to outlast Atmore’s team led by head coach Anthony Hayes who fought off a 12-point deficit only to lose 59-57 in the final seconds of the game.

The second and third quarters proved to be the difference makers of the game with the Bulldogs able to build a nine-point lead in the course of those 16 minutes.

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For ECHS, the game started as most do with junior Dalvin Craft (11 points, nine rebound and a block) winning the tip, but then the Blue Devils saw the match up they were in for as the Bulldogs pulled out to a 9-3 lead before Atmore fought back and made it a game going on a run to end the quarter with the teams tied at 11.

In the second quarter, the Blue Devils hit some shooting woes as they shot 3-for-11, while the Bulldogs were able to outscore them 11-8 and go into halftime leading 22-19.

The only thing keeping Atmore alive in the game in the first half were the trips to the free throw line by Craft and a couple of fast break layups by junior Fred Knight (nine points, five rebounds, two steals and one assist.)

Following halftime, the Bulldogs continued where they left off as they extended their lead over Atmore. Andalusia used its speed and size to its advantage as the lead built up to nine as the Bulldogs outscored the Blue Devils 15-9.

Trailing 37-28 to open the final quarter, the Blue Devils’ offensive problems continued with the Bulldogs eventually mounting a 12-point lead.

With his team down 12 points, Hayes called a timeout and came up with a game plan.

“We decided to go back into our press and use our speed,” Hayes said. “That’s more our style of play and what we have been doing all season. Playing an opponent like Andalusia, we have to be prepared for their style of play. Once we were down 12 though, we knew we had to play our style of basketball. The reason we didn’t do it the whole game is that we knew their two guards were lightning quick and we couldn’t do it.”

The change in style of play worked as the Blue Devils jumped back into the game with senior C.J. Pierce (16 points, three rebounds and two steals) hitting two big three pointers to help give his team life.

The Bulldogs although outscored 29-22 in the fourth quarter were able to hold off the final charge of the game as ECHS was called for a five-second inbound violation with 1.7 seconds left to give the Bulldogs the ball back. Upon the final inbound, the Bulldogs won with the final buzzer going off 59-57.

Bulldogs head coach Richard Robertson was happy for his team to still be playing, but added he saw some mistakes they made.

“We are happy we get to continue playing after today,” Robertson said. “We made some poor decisions today against Atmore, but I’ve told the guys in a meeting on Thursday and one Friday morning that we have to make better decisions if we want to keep playing.”

With the loss, the Blue Devils finish with a 23-8 record, but also have some accolades to be proud of with a county championship and area championship.

Their head coach is proud of his team for how they played against the Bulldogs and knows where the issues were in the loss.

“The guys never quit and as a coach that’s all I want,” Hayes said. “We didn’t play bad to be honest. Our problem was we turned the ball over too much. We turned it over 22 times and we hadn’t done that all season. Regardless, we are excited for what we have accomplished and we are looking forward to next season.”

Other Blue Devils recording stats were T.C. Brown with nine points, one rebound and one assist; Andrew Rodgers finished with eight points, nine rebounds, three blocks and one assist; Demarcus McMillian with three points, one rebound and a steal and Pete Myers with one point.