ECHS sends CHHS home

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 9, 2003

CAMDEN - Escambia County jumped out to an early lead over the Charles Henderson High School Trojans and, after holding off a rally by the boys from Troy, booted the Trojans out of the Class 5A, Area 3 tournament in the first round. The game, held at Wilcox County High School, saw the Blue Devils of Escambia County take command in the first quarter and fend off a determined Charles Henderson team and cruise to a 70-62 victory.

Charles Henderson showed signs of nervousness in this first step towards the state championship and were never able to fully recover from a cold start that saw the Trojans go the first four minutes of the game without a field goal. ECHS jumped out to a 9-0 lead as Charles Henderson continued to hoist airballs from long distance range. A Lakore Daniels jumper from just inside the three-point arc cut the lead to 16-4 with 1:36 left in the opening quarter. By the close of that period, numerous blown fast breaks left the Trojans with only seven points in the game's first eight minutes.

The Blue Devils' 16-7 lead at the start of the second would be narrowed by outside shooting, but the shots were not consistent from the perimeter, with two shots missing iron entirely for almost every one that hit. The only thing that kept Escambia from running away with the game was poor foul shooting by the Blue Devils.

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Terrance Hooten grabbed an offensive board and put the ball back in the hoop while being fouled. After nailing the free throw, the Trojans had narrowed the gap to 19-13. But Charles Henderson showed little movement without the ball whenever the game would slow into half-court sets. Turnovers and dribbles off of knees gave Escambia added opportunities to put points on the board and though neither team boasted a dominant post presence, the slashing of Kenneth Clark from Escambia prevented the Trojans from closing in before the half.

Hooten nailed three free throws after being fouled while jacking up a three, bringing the Trojans within five. But Clark showed strong finishing skills to turn fast breaks into points and stretch the lead back to 10. At the half, Charles Henderson was down 34-24.

CHHS ratcheted up the defensive intensity coming out of the locker room after the half, using full court presses and traps to force several Blue Devil errors. And though Layton Knight slashed through the press to drill a pair of three-pointers to start the third quarter, sweet shooting and hustle on fast breaks from Hooten kept the Trojans within striking distance.

As Escambia protected a 46-39 lead with 2:39 left in the third, the Trojans committed a turnover on the inbounds pass coming out of a timeout. It was the sort of mistake that would come back to haunt them. The Blue Devils converted several CHHS turnovers into points, even as a three from Daniels drew the Trojans within four -the closest margin of the night.

Consistently, the Trojans failed to box out Escambia's big men and allowed lazy passes to get picked off by Escambia defenders who were more than happy to start fast breaks to the other end of the court. By the end of the third, ECHS was holding on to a 52-46 lead.

Strong foul shooting by the Trojans kept the lead tight through the fourth quarter and good defense allowed CHHS to slowly chip away. But the outside shooting was not consistent for the Trojans and when Jeremy McCants blew a wide open layup, it looked for a moment as if the momentum could swing back to Charles Henderson.

However, a string of three-pointers hoisted up with no follow-up on the offensive glass allowed ECHS to maintain the lead, run out the clock and nail a number of foul shots at the end of the game.