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T.R. Miller falls as Blue Devils remain perfect

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
The T.R. Miller Tigers faced a formidable challenge when they hosted the Escambia County Blue Devils in the 2002-03 season opener which was the first game played in the team's new gymnasium.
The Blue Devils entered the game with a 5-0 season record along with the reputation of possessing the most talented and disciplined team they have put on the floor in several years. Although the Tigers had not yet tested themselves in a game situation, they entered the contest with an abundance of talent returning from last season's team that amassed a 17-12 season record.
The Tigers went jaw-to-jaw with the visitors for 32 minutes and looked as though they might overtake the lead in the final quarter, but Escambia County led the entire game while improving their record to 6-0 with a 52-43 win.
The Blue Devils scored the first seven points of the contest before Miller's Trey Paul took advantage of a fastbreak opportunity to score a basket and pull the Tigers within five, 7-2. After Escambia County scored the next four points to up its lead to 11-2, the Tigers answered with the final five points of the quarter. A 3-pointer from Ryheem Drakeford coupled with a running hook shot by Greg Bogan reduced the Blue Devil advantage to 11-7 heading to the second period of play.
In the second quarter, Escambia County continued to utilize a zone defense designed to force the Tigers to shoot from the outside. The tactic caused Miller problems, as the Tigers were not able to consistently work the ball in close or hit the open jump shot from the perimeter. The result was a 25-13 Blue Devil lead at the halftime break.
The Tigers began to close the deficit in the third quarter. Neal Cheatham scored the five points of the period for Miller while Bogan and Drakeford contributed key 3-pointers in an offensive surge that pulled the Tigers within eight at 40-32 heading to the final quarter.
Miller began the fourth period playing a tough man-to-man defense while Escambia County remained in a packed-in zone.
Paul pulled the Tigers within three, 40-35, by scoring the first three points of the quarter with a free throw and a transition basket. Then, with 2:42 left in the game, Cheatham pulled the Tigers even closer at 43-40 with a drive to the hole. But, that was as close as Miller would get, as several missed open shots and a costly turnover down the stretch allowed the Blue Devils to escape with the 52-43 victory.
Leading scorers for the Tigers were Greg Bogan and Neal Cheatham, with 15 points and eight points, respectively.