Blue Devils beat UMS 43-35 in regional semifinal, advance to Elite 8

Published 3:28 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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MONTGOMERY – Escambia County’s Stephen Williams isn’t interested in going home, yet.

Williams scored 12 points, and added 12 rebounds to help lead the Blue Devils to a 43-35 victory over UMS-Wright Feb. 19 in the Class 4A South Regional Semifinal at Garrett Coliseum.

ECHS took an early lead, but the Bulldogs came back to make the game close. UMS outscored the Blue Devils 14-8 in the third period.

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On getting the lead early, and having the ability to close the game out, Williams said the team knew it would give UMS matchup problems.

“We played with intensity,” Williams said. “We ran our game plan the right play.”
With the victory, the Blue Devils improve to 17-8 overall, and advance to play the Jackson on Feb. 21 in the regional final at 5:45 p.m. Jackson beat Andalusia 65-58 in the regional semifinals.

ECHS boys basketball coach Layton Knight said he knew it was going to be a close game.

“This is basketball, and it’s a game of runs,” Knight said. “All we had to do was be solid defensively. I knew they weren’t that more athletic than us. We just stuck to our guns, and were solid defensively.”

Knight said Williams came up big for the team in the fourth, and added that the standout guard had to be strong for the Blue Devils.

During the fourth period, both were notched at 33 apiece after an up and under by UMS-Wright’s Sims Druhan with around 6:30 to go.

ECHS took a timeout less than 2 minutes later.

A short time after the break, Lorenzo Arnold hit a running jumper to take the lead back.

UMS answered on a jumper from Jeff Holston to tie the contest back up again.

Finding an opportunity in the paint, Escambia County’s Michael French hit Williams on an assist for a score. Williams was found by Ta Henderson a short time later for another bucket and a 39-35 lead.

Arnold then hit two free throws, and Cleo Bolar Jr. dished in two free throws of his own with 17.1 seconds left. Bolar led ECHS with 17 points.

Arnold contributed with nine points, and French added five.

Escambia County screamed out to a good start, leading 14-9 after the first period and 25-16 at halftime.

Knight said when they started the game, the team knew it would give the Bulldogs matchup problems.

“I knew it was going to be hard for them to defend us,” he said. “Cali McCants came up big for us defensively.”

Holston led UMS with 10 points. Druhan and Jack Blackerby contributed with nine each.