Final Four!

Published 8:19 pm Friday, February 10, 2012

Escambia Academy Cougar Jordan Sasser dishes out a pass to a teammate against the Jackson Academy Eagles earlier this season. The Cougars play in the Final Four at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Escambia Academy fought an uphill battle for four quarters in Thursday’s AISA Elite 8 match up against the Restoration Academy Bulldogs.

Playing on the home court of the Huntingdon Hawks, the Cougars trailed at the end of the first three quarters before pulling off a fourth-quarter comeback and earning a 46-38 victory and a trip to the AISA Final Four.

Trailing 30-29 moving into the final quarter, the Cougars clawed back into the game in the final eight minutes using their defense to create scoring opportunities to go on a 17-8 run to pull away for the win.

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The scoring run came in part by using the press defense to turn turnovers into points, Cougars head basketball coach Kevin Woods said.
“We cut down on their second-chance opportunities,” he said. “We also pressed them into creating turnovers that helped us get some easy buckets, which is where we created the separation.”

Before the big fourth quarter, the Cougars were behind the Bulldogs from the early points of the game.

In the first quarter, EA found trouble on the offensive end of the court hitting a limited number of baskets, as Restoration jumped out to an 8-5 lead.

The Cougars kept themselves in the contest in the second period by putting nine points on the scoreboard, but the Bulldogs held a three-point lead moving into halftime scoring nine points of their own. At the break, Restoration led 17-14.

Escambia Academy began chipping away at Restoration’s lead in the second half by outscoring them Bulldogs 15-12 in the third quarter pulling within one point. They followed up with their defensive stand in the final period to run away with the contest 46-38 at the final buzzer.

It took a team effort to get the win, but the Cougars were led by seniors in Darren McGhee and Jaylen Henry. McGhee finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds to go along with one assist and one block, while Henry added 10 points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Cougar Jordan Sasser chipped in four points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

Brandon Goddard, Robert Whatley and Brett Helton each finished the win with three points. Goddard also had four rebounds with Whatley pulling down seven boards in the game.

Bryant Lambert rounded out the scoring with one point.

Now, the Cougars advance to the Final Four to face Evangel Christian Academy in Tuesday’s Final Four match up. Evangel opened the Elite 8 with a 72-33 rout of the Pickens Academy Pirates and already own a victory over the Cougars earlier in the season.

To come away with a win Tuesday, the recipe for success is simple, Woods said.

“It’s the same situation for us,” he said. “Last time, we didn’t show up against Evangel. We have to crash the boards this time around and create turnovers. They press man all the way down the court, so we have to take care of the ball. To win, we have to have less than 10 turnovers.”

Escambia Academy and Evangel Christian Academy face off at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Huntingdon College in Montgomery.