ON TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Escambia Academy beats Pickens Academy 55-41, to play Macon-East in title game Monday
MONTGOMERY — Escambia Academy will play for the AISA Class 2A state basketball championship against Macon-East after a 55-41 victory over Pickens Academy today in the Final Four at the Multiplex in the Capital City of Dreams.
The Pirates slowed the game down a bit against an up-tempo style Cougars team, but a strong third period coupled with some rebounding and solid defense gave the Canoe School the advantage.
“This is a good win for us,” EA basketball coach Hugh Fountain said. “I don’t know how long it’s been (since we’ve played for the championship).
“One of our goals was to get to the state championship in basketball and win it,” he said. “We still have a very tough opponent ahead on Monday.”
Tip off on Monday against the top-ranked Knights (30-2) will be at 2 p.m. in the Multiplex.
This is the second-straight time a boys team from EA will play in a state championship. The Cougars defeated Autauga Academy to win the 2A state football title last November.
Fountain said during today’s game, the boys did make some mistakes, but rebounded in a good way.
“We just got to finish shots,” he said. “We played really well in the second half.”
A spark was needed for the Cougars at the start of the third period and it came in the form of senior guard Neikel Robinson.
Robinson went on to score 10 of his 14 points in the third and recorded three blocks to help lead the Cougars.
EA assistant coach James Lee said Robinson was a little miffed earlier in the game after a turnover.
“I just told him that ‘you’re too good of a player,’” he said. “‘You have had three good drives (to the basket). Just got back to what you do, driving the basketball.’
“That’s how we got the big lead,” he said. “(Robinson) was electric. On defense, he really picked it up for us.”
EA led 28-20 going into the third period, but the Pirates — who were undefeated going into the game — weren’t going away as the clung to their inside game.
After getting a drive to the basket, Robinson made one free throw, and then converted a layup for a three-point, 33-30 lead.
Ti Taylor then got an easy bucket off of a MJ Jones assist.
Taylor cropped back up again by making a 3-pointer off of a Louie Turner rebound and assist to go up 38-31 with 2:44 to go in the third.
Robinson helped put the game out of reach after a monster rebound and put back, followed by two blocked shots.
Taylor found an easy bucket after a Fred Flavors assist, Robinson made the first of two and Jace Daniels laced in a rebound and put back for a 14-point lead.
Robinson put the nail in the coffin with a drive up the lane with 2 seconds left in the third and a 47-31 advantage going into the fourth.
The Cougars ate up clock during the fourth period while minimizing opportunities for points.
Taylor led EA with 23 points, and Daniels chipped in 7 during the win.
Pickens’ Allen Hammer led with 11 points, and Lee Acker had 10.
During the victory, most of the Cougars’ starting five were in foul trouble.
Fountain said before the game he encouraged the boys to play aggressive because that’s their style.
“I don’t think it ever affected us in the game,” he said. “We just had a couple of dumb fouls.”
The game was scoreless until the 4:51 mark in the first period after the Pirates made a jumper. Flavors answered with two foul shots.
The Pirates led 5-4 after the first period.
Lee said during the second period, the guys made sure to play up tempo and their style.