Earle gets to 15-0 in league play with win over E.P.C.
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
LEPANTO — A lot can change in about six weeks in high school basketball. Rotations evolve, set plays get scouted and dissected, so on and so forth. So what did veteran Earle head coach Billy Murray think about his team’s 86-58 win here last night over an East Poinsett County team that had given his Bulldogs fits in Earle on December 18? “I’m shocked,” said the Head Bulldog. “I’m shocked for a few reasons, mainly because we didn’t have a very good practice yesterday. To me, they didn’t take the game serious yesterday, but I guess a bad practice means a good game. I don’t know.” Earle inched one game closer to a perfect run through the 2A-3 with their victory in Lepanto. The Bulldogs are now 15-0 in that league and will play on the road against Marmaduke on Friday to try and finish their district schedule 16-0. They have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, scheduled to be held in Marked Tree, and with it a first-round bye and a berth in the regional tournament. The Bulldogs never had one big, decisive run in their first meeting with the Warriors, and Earle had to grind out a 77-68 home win. Last night, Earle got that run early on. Leading 14-11, Earle took off on what would become a 20-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters to essentially end the game before halftime. The first 10 points of that spurt would come in the last 1:20 of the first quarter, and was set up by four turnovers that led quickly into transition baskets for Earle. “That was so sweet,” Murray stated. “When that happened, everything shifted to us and it never shifted back and the game was ours from that point on.” Earle forced 17 E.P.C. turnovers on the night. The stoppage after the first quarter did little to slow down the hungry Bulldogs as the run was capped by a pair of Treyvon Boyce free throws with 4:55 left in the first half and gave Earle a 34-11 lead. E.P.C. would snap their scoring drought of nearly six minutes when Clay Malone connected on a three-pointer with 4:17 left in the first half, but Earle would lead 40-20 at the break. The beginning of the second half saw Earle hit their first six shot attempts before missing their first field goal with 2:57 left in that stanza. By that time, the Bulldogs led 53-32. The lead would extend to 21 points at 62-41 after three quarters and Earle would claim a lead by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter, when Cortez Banks scored on a lay-up. Earle also went to work on the boards, outboarding E.P.C. 49-30, including 17 on the offensive glass. Those figures helped the Bulldogs connect on 58 percent of their shots from the field. Earle (20-1 overall, 15-0 2A-3) got a team-high 19 points from Banks, 14 from Marcus Brown and 11 from Brown’s brother, Marquise, while Billy Murray Jr. and Treyvon Boyce added 12 apiece. Boyce added 11 rebounds and three blocked shots to round out a busy night. Marcus Brown added eight rebounds, while Gerry Bohanon reeled in seven. “Having five guys in double-figures, that means you have a whole lot of weapons,” Murray explained of his balanced scoring attack. E.P.C got 19 points from Xzavier Reed, 16 from Malone and 10 from J’sebian Brown. Earle will finish conference play up on Friday at Marmaduke before returning home to host Osceola and Marianna on Tuesday and Friday of next week. The Marianna game will be senior night and the senior girls game will tip at 6 p.m. The senior high district tournament will open at Marked Tree on February 15.