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Blue Devils top Hillcrest-Evergreen 56-52

In a close game, every shot counts.

Escambia County outlasted Class 3A No. 4 Hillcrest-Evergreen 56-52 Friday at home on senior night, rallying late to hold off a late Jaugars surge.

The Blue Devils went on a 7-0 run in the first period, but HHS bounced back with shots of its own. However, the Blue Devils led 11-7 after the first period.

Kaiden Arnold converted a 3-pointer, and Tyson Moorer hit a 3-pointer with more than 4 minutes left in the second.

Hillcrest came back on a 5-0 run thanks to some baseline turnovers to cut it to 20-17 a short time later.

Then, Jacobey James went coast to coast for a 24-17 advantage after Hakeem Johnson’s layup.

The Jaguars didn’t go away as they tied the game up on a drive to the basket from Kesharvis Jones. Beforehand, Camron Rudolph got a rebound and putback to give HHS a 26-24 lead.

ECHS led 28-26 at halftime.

Both teams went back and forth, never letting the lead differential get above five points.

In the fourth, the same story ensued, but at around the 5 minute mark, Escambia County’s Jacob Dirden provided a much-needed spark.

Dirden hit a 3-pointer to give the Blue Devils a 50-45 advantage, and got a block on the defensive end. He then found Stephen Williams for an easy conversion.

James made a crucial free throw with 7.5 seconds left.

Sheldon Williams led ECHS with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists; Moorer had 13 points and five assists; Dirden had seven points and five rebounds; James added six points; and Arnold had five points and seven rebounds.

Jones led HHS with 12 points.

ECHS will host St. Michael next Thurs., Feb. 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the Class 4A, Area 1 semifinals.

In girls action, the Lady Blue Devils beat Hillcrest-Evergreen 64-43.

The Lady Blue Devils will play in a play-in game at home against W.S. Neal for the area tournament. Tip off is at 6 p.m.