By JOSH FRYE
Escambia Academy’s basketball team is state championship-bound after a 56-25 romp past Edgewood Academy last Thursday, February 11, in the AISA Class AA Final 4 pairings.
With first-year head coach Willie White at the reins, EA launched past Edgewood to earn a slot in the state title game against Macon East. The game was to be played at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 17, at Montgomery’s MetroPlex.
“We played Edgewood once before this season,” White said. “As a matter of fact, that game was the first win of the season for us, with a victory of over 30 points. Going into this game we knew a lot about them and were prepared for what was to come.”
A trio of double-figures scoring performances led a balanced EA attack in the win over Edgewood.
Landon Sims scored 12 points, while Daughtry McGhee and Malaki Hanes contributed 10 each. Caleb Davis added eight points, Bubba Nettles scored six, Chaston Helton added five and Jacob Lee and T.J. Riley contributed two each.
“We did not play them as well as I thought we would,” White said. “Then again, I am a hard critic. Regardless, I am proud of the win and the team.”
EA enters the state title bout with a record of 9-8. The Knights have posted a 13-7 mark.
White stressed that since the semifinals win, the Cougars have been preparing non-stop for Macon East.
“We have overcome a lot of challenges to get to this point,” White said. “I feel that we will win because they are standing in our path to the championship.”
Despite what the record and situation reflect at the current moment, EA’s season has not been without challenges and adversity.
This season started slowly for the Cougars, who seemed to hit their stride down the regular season’s home stretch. The first-year EA coach said one reason for the slow start was that the players had to get used to the way he wanted things done. Once they did, they completely “bought into” his coaching style,
“When people see me on the side of the court, they may think that I am mad at times,” White said. “That is far from the truth. I am a colorful coach and I am never upset, but I simply like to push the kids to be better. They have the potential to be great and I knew that they had to dig deep and find that passion and drive. As the season grew, so did the work ethic and passion of the players.
According to the EA coach, the players became accustomed to how he wanted things to be done and what he expected of the team. Player then began to “buy in” and produce results as a team.
“After you have pushed yourself beyond what you can accomplish and can’t push anymore, God takes hold and helps bring you the rest of the way,” he said. “That is what I try to relay to my players. Anything is possible if you put in the work and focus on the goal.”