Photo: Etowah High’s Emil Smith (10) muscles in between Center Point’s Correy Westone (left) and LeBois Deru during the Blue Devils 69-49 loss in the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 5A championship game on Thursday, Feb. 21, at Jacksonville State. (Gary Wells)
By Mike Goodson Sports Correspondent
The Etowah High School boys basketball team Blue Devils ended the 2018-2019 season on a losing note on Thursday (Feb. 21) at Jacksonville State.
The Blue Devils shot a combined 5-for-35 in the second half on the way to a 69-49 loss at the hands of Center Point in the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 5A championship game.
Etowah finished the season with a 19-9 record while Center Point improved to 16-14.
The Eagles will face Bibb County next week in the semifinals of the AHSAA state tournament in Birmingham.
With Center Point holding a 31-29 lead at the half, the game’s pace slowed down in the third quarter with the score knotted at 38-38 with 1:38 to go in the period. Etowah held their last lead of the game a few seconds later at 39-38.
But Center Point went on a 6-0 run to close out the quarter and take a 44-39 lead into the final eight minutes.
The Eagles opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to break the game open at 53-39. Etowah scored only 10 points in the fourth quarter while the Eagles erupted for 25 to win going away.
After making 5-of-7 three-point baskets in the first two quarters, the Blue Devils made just two in the second half. Center Point also had a 42 to 33 edge in rebounding and turned the ball over 13 times to Etowah’s 19.
The Eagles also finished with the advantage in points in the paint (38 to 6) and points off turnovers (21 to 10).
Although disappointed with the outcome, Etowah head coach James Graves was happy with his team’s effort.
“[Center Point] is the best defensive team we have played by far this season. We did our best to keep them off of the boards, but they’re a quick, physical team. They were much more aggressive than we were today.”
Etowah was led by Devin Laster with 19 points, followed by Jamin Graham with 13. Graham also had 11 rebounds. Emil Smith contributed six points, fourt assists and two steals.
Roderick Orr led Center Point with 16 points.
The Blue Devils performed well from the free throw line (14-for-19 for 74 percent) but it wasn’t enough to overcome the subpar shooting from the field.
Etowah was 14 of 19 from the free throw line while Center Point made 21 of 32 foul shots.
Center Point jumped out to a 10-1 lead before Etowah could get going. Graham soon exploded to spark a Blue Devil comeback and tie the game at 16-16 with 58 seconds to go in the opening quarter. Etowah held a 19-18 lead at the quarters end.
Graham and Later made the all-tournament team.