Winterboro challenges Ellwood Christian, but Eagles advance
The Ellwood Christian Eagles defeated the Winterboro Bulldogs 69-59 on Tuesday night at Wallace Community College Selma in the sub-regional game, and will advance to the regionals in Montgomery.
The Bulldogs were the toughest team the Eagles have faced in their last four games, and it showed. In the first quarter, Winterboro proved they could run, shoot and rebound at the same pace as the Eagles. The Bulldogs were blocking shots and creating second chance opportunities for themselves under the rim.
“We showed up,” Ellwood Christian head coach Willie Shears said. “These types of games there will be a lot of runs made. It was going back-and-forth. I just knew if we could continue to grind it, then we could pull it out.”
At the end of the first quarter, the score was 13-11 with the slight edge to Ellwood.
The Bulldogs made a run to start the second quarter, and their 3-pointers started falling as well. Winterboro made four of their five 3-pointers in the second quarter. The Eagles switched to a press defense to slow down Winterboro and it worked. The pressure forced turnovers and prevented the Bulldogs from getting more than a three-point lead.
Time was running out in the first half when Loveless Craig tipped in a missed shot at the buzzer to give Ellwood a 33-30 lead at halftime.
At halftime, Shears made the adjustment to try and get his top-scorer, Craig, the ball more. The Eagles kept the pressure on Winterboro and slowly began to build a lead.
“After halftime, we were looking at trying to put Loveless Craig in the right position so that he could score,” Shears said.
The tension in the gym grew as each teams fans made their opinions heard after every rebound, shot and blown whistle.
During the third quarter is when Craig also started getting into foul trouble. In a two-minute stretch, he was called for a technical and two blocking fouls. Shears had to bring him to the bench just under three minutes left in the third quarter.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Justin Bufford and Joseph Mahone were able to maintain the offense while Craig waited to return to the game. Bufford scored 19 points in the game and Mahone led the Eagles with 21 points. Craig finished the game with 16 points.
“Justin Bufford played lights-out,” Shears said. “He took care of the ball and made free throws down the stretch. Those are the things that count the most.”
Ellwood widened their lead during the third quarter, and began the fourth with a 56-42 lead. Winterboro went to their press defense and attempted to shoot their way back into the ball game.
The Eagles game plan was to waste as much time as possible to hold them at bay. The Eagles managed to maintain a safe 10-point gap between themselves and Winterboro to hold on and win the game.
The Eagles advanced to the regionals at Alabama State University in Montgomery and will play on Thursday, according to Shears.
The Keith Bears defeated Thorsby 63-46 on the road on Tuesday night. The Bears will advance to the regionals.
The Dallas County Hornets lost 71-70 to Booker T. Washington in double overtime. The Hornets season has ended.
The Southside Panthers lost 49-46 to Central Coosa High School. The Panthers season has ended.
The Selma High Saints lost 90-42 to Paul Bryant High School. The Saints season has ended.