Lady Cougars fight in 52-47 win over MA at regionals

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

Escambia Academy's Alia Snow (4) made two clutch free throws with 58.7 seconds left to help lead the Lady Cougars to a 52-47 win over Morgan Academy earlier this afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Atmore Advance

Escambia Academy’s Alia Snow (4) made two clutch free throws with 58.7 seconds left to help lead the Lady Cougars to a 52-47 win over Morgan Academy earlier this afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Atmore Advance

GREENVILLE — Escambia Academy’s girls secured their spot in the 2016 AISA Class 3A Elite 8 Tournament with a 52-47 victory over Morgan Academy in the first round of regionals today at Fort Dale Academy.

“We’re very, very happy about making it to the Elite 8 this year,” EA coach Cale Thompson said. “Now, we’re really working on getting a good seed in the tournament.”

With the win, the Lady Cougars will face Pike Liberal Arts tomorrow at 3 p.m. EA has lost twice this season to the Lady Patriots.

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Thompson said tomorrow’s game will give the girls an opportunity to show how mentally tough they are.

“I know we have a good fight ahead of us,” he said. “We’ll fight, but we’ll see how far we’re willing to fight, knowing that we made the Elite 8, and against a team that’s beat us twice.”

Playing with mental toughness was on display from the Lady Cougars during their game against MA this afternoon.

EA shot out to a fast start off of two fast-break layups from Mikayla Spruill and Alia Snow in the first period.

Carson Barnett got a rebound and putback to give EA a 6-2 lead, and the Lady Cougars went up by seven at 9-2 after Spruill found Snow off of another fast break with less than six minutes left in the first.

The Lady Cougars wouldn’t sit on a good lead for long as MA spurted out on a 7-0 run to cut it to 10-9 with more than one minute to go.

To round off the opener, Snow drove the baseline for a layup to give EA a 12-10 lead going into the second.

It was more Spruill finding Snow in the paint in the second period, but MA kept the game tight.

However, EA stepped up the pressure after a much-needed timeout and went on a 10-0 run to end the first half with a 28-15 advantage.

MA didn’t let EA enjoy its lead for long as the Selma school started clawing back again, thanks to a strong defensive game plan, which included taking the inside away from the Lady Cougars.

Natalie Henry got a putback and a jumper, and Mary Stewart drove in a layup and MA cut the lead to 28-23.

EA’s Bailey Lancaster drove the lane for a layup on a foul call to increase it to 30-23.

Barnett got in two jumpers to help EA go ahead 35-27, and the Lady Cougars led 38-28 at the end of the third.

MA’s offense proved lethal in the fourth as it cut the game to 48-44 with a little more than a minute left on a Anna Gayle Hubbard jumper.

On the offensive end, EA couldn’t make the right decisions to take advantage of the opportunities they were given, Thompson said.

“We had to be committed to one, making good passes; and two, instead of settling for an outside shot, even though they were taking the middle away, they were giving us opportunities to drive in for layups,” he said. “It was there. They just didn’t see it.”

Snow made two crucial free throws with 58.7 seconds left to give EA a five-point lead.

Thompson said her shots gave the Lady Cougars an opportunity to press.

“She controlled the game really well,” Thompson said about Snow. “Her best two points came after they brought the game to within three with a minute left. Over the past two seasons, she has struggled with free throws late. Today was a good opportunity to show how she’s grown.”

Snow led EA with 22 points; Spruill added 10; Cassidy Murphy scored six; and Lancaster chipped in five.