By JOSH FRYE
Escambia County High’s basketball team continued to struggle over the past week as it sought not only to establish an identity on the court, but to field a full team.
ECHS’s latest struggles included dropping two of three games during the Gulf Shores Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament, held Monday, November 25, through Wednesday, November 27.
Starting for unknown reasons with an understaffed roster of only nine players, the Blue Devils fell to Buckhorn High, 75-35, during the first game of the tournament.
The only players to score during the first period were Jalen Barnes and Jacobey James, who had two points each, and ECHS trailed 22-4 at the end of the period.
In second-period action, Sheldon Williams and Allen Patterson picked up the only points scored by the Blue Devils, and ECHS trailed the Bucks 46-8 at the half.
During the third period, scoring opened a little for the Blue Devils as Williams tallied seven points, Patterson scored five, James scored six and Jacob Dirden added two. Despite the sudden scoring frenzy, ECHS trailed 66-28 at the end of the third, and Williams and Dirden added the only points for the Blue Devils during the final period.
During the second game, the Escambia squad had only six players in uniform, the Blue Devils stepped up their game, and the first period ended in a 10-10 deadlock with Gulf Shores High.
Patterson and James scored two-points each in the second quarter, while Hakeem Johnson and Kadien Arnold put up three each, and Williams scored four.
At the half, ECHS led the Dolphins 24-20.
Patterson helped defend the Blue Devils lead in the third period, putting up 10 points as ECHS held a 37-36 advantage at the end of the period.
Patterson added 10 more points in the final stanza, and Williams knocked in two, but the under-manned Escambia squad couldn’t keep up, and Gulf Shores rallied to claim a 50-49 win.
In the tournament finale, ECHS faced Foley High. The Lions took an early 8-5 lead over the Blue Devils, but ECHS rallied during the second period.
Johnson led the Blue Devils scoring with five points in that quarter, while James scored three, Patterson added two, and Williams and Reginald Terrick added one each. ECHS held a 24-17 lead at the half.
In third-period action, the Blue Devils scored 20 points, boosting their lead to 44-25, and Patterson scored 6 points in the fourth to help extend the ECHS lead. James and Terrick added two points apiece, and Williams added four to secure the only tournament win for the Blue Devils, 58-39.
“I am proud of my guys,” ECHS head coach John Shears said. “It was a challenge because we had several key guys out. We started Monday against Buckhorn with nine players and only had six for the last two games.”
The Blue Devils coach said there was a positive to the absence of the experienced players.
“We started freshmen those days, and that gave them a great opportunity to show us what they could do,” he said. “They stepped up and played great for us. This opportunity will really help us down the road with our freshmen.”
ECHS will travel to face Monroe County on Thursday, December 5.