Blue Devils fall 37-35 to Jackson in regional final

Published 11:12 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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MONTGOMERY – Escambia County’s boys basketball team came up a bit short, falling 37-35 to Jackson in the Class 4A South Regional Final tonight at Garrett Coliseum.

The Blue Devils and Aggies were neck and neck in the first half. JHS led 16-15 after a solid defensive effort in the first half. However, ECHS turned things around, outscoring JHS 14-5 in the third period to take a good lead going into the final period of play. The Aggies went on to outscore ECHS 16-6 in the final 8 minutes of play.

ECHS basketball coach Layton Knight said they had a good game plan, and it was executed well.

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“They killed us on the glass,” Knight said. “We knew they were going to give us fits in the zone (defense), but life goes on.”

Knight said in the fourth period, Jackson attacked the glass and a couple of calls were missed.

“That’s just the nature of the beast,” he said.

For the game, Jackson outrebounded Atmore 37-35.

The Aggies started to chip away Escambia County’s lead early in the fourth period, but the Blue Devils answered.

Stephen Williams, who led ECHS with a double double 16 points and 13 rebounds, hit a jumper to increase his team’s lead to 31-24.

Jackson’s Micah Caster then hit a 3-pointer and the front-end of a pair of free throws to keep the game honest. Teammate Naris Powell then converted an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game up.

Escambia County’s Bryce Stevens then answered with a drive and was fouled.

The Aggies tied the game up again with more than 1 minute left, and Powell nailed a jumper to take a lead his team would never give up. William Taylor added a free throw to go up two possessions.

Williams added a layup with less than 10 seconds left, and the Blue Devils took a timeout.

From the timeout, Jackson got to the free throw line, but missed both shots with 5.8 left.

Escambia County tried its best in the end, but the ball didn’t meet the net.

With the loss, the Blue Devils finished their season 17-10 overall.

Knight said it was a great season, adding that they made it to the Elite 8.

“They exceeded my expectations,” he said. They don’t have anything to hang their heads down on. I don’t have anything to hang my head down on. We made it to the Sweet 16 three years in a row, and to the Elite 8 two-of-three times.”

During the third period, Escambia County’s Cleo Bolar Jr. got things going with a jumper. Williams, who battled in the paint all night, dished in a putback and jumper for a 21-19 lead.

Williams added a rebound and putback, and then a dunk with more than 1 minute left in the third.

Bolar then hit a drive to the lane, and a pull-up jumper with time expiring.

Bolar added 14 points for Escambia County.

Powell scored 14 points to lead Jackson.

Bolar and Williams made the All-Tournament team for ECHS. Powell, Taylor and Caster were selected from Jackson. Powell was named the most valuable player.