ECHS boys fall in 4A state championship game

Published 8:44 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

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BIRMINGHAM – Not many people will forget the 2021-2022 Escambia County Blue Devils boys basketball team.

The Blue Devils fell 85-49 to Jacksonville in the title game tonight at Legacy Arena.

With the runner up finish, ECHS finishes its season 26-5.

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“It didn’t turn out like we wanted,” ECHS boys basketball coach Layton Knight said. “This is the best season I’ve ever had as my first season as a varsity coach. We know what we’ve got to work on. It’s just hard. Turnovers hurt us early in the game.

“It’s hard,” he said.

Early in the game, the contest was close, but the Golden Eagles began to pull away. JHS led 14-7 after the first period, and then had a stellar second eight minutes of play to lead 33-13 at halftime.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Cade Phillips, who finished the game with 19 points and nine rebounds, said defensively, his team showed what they typically do at practice.

“We get after it in practice,” Phillips said. “We competed against each other. We love each other. We’ve been pushing each other hard. Our motto was to make practice harder than the game.

“We see this every day,” he said.

In the second half, Jacksonville went on to outscore the Blue Devils 34-20 in the third and 20-18 in the fourth.

Knight, along with sophomore guard Conner McPherson and senior guard Sheldon Williams, said the Golden Eagles’ defense, especially their press and guard defense effected their offensive production.

In the end, the Blue Devils didn’t give up as they made buckets down the stretch.

For Knight, this season was special as he took over the reigns for John Shears, who died last April.

Knight said this season was historical.

“When Shears died, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I wanted to take the position.’ I know that we had a lot of people coming back from last year. I sat down with (ECHS Principal Amy) Cabaniss and she asked me. I never knew that I’d be sitting in front of you this day. They worked hard over the summer.”

Knight said this year’s team is young and will be back, and the boys did a good job of putting Atmore, and its fans, on the map.

“Y’all can’t forget about little old Escambia County,” he said.