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Eagles lose close battles against 'Canes, Chiefs

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
Although the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles narrowly missed earning wins against quality opponents in their two latest games, they appear to be primed for a strong showing in the Jan. 7 opening round of the Area-1 tournament to be held at T.R. Miller High School.
Entering the tournament, the Blue Eagles are 6-20 on the season.
Flomaton 60, Neal 58
A Jan. 30 contest on the road against the Flomaton Hurricanes was a seesaw battle that came down to the final buzzer.
Both teams settled into a half-court set in the opening period and traded baskets for 32 minutes. After being deadlocked at 14-14 heading into the second period, Flomaton gained a slight advantage by halftime, 30-27.
The nip-and-tuck battle continued over the course of the second half. The third-period scoring was knotted at 14-14, allowing the Hurricanes to maintain a 3-point lead, 44-41, heading to the final-quarter showdown.
Neal trailed by five, 60-55, with 20 seconds remaining in the game when J.J. Pitts nailed a 3-pointer to pull the Blue Eagles within a basket. After stopping the Hurricanes on their next possession, a Blue Eagles' buzzer shot to tie just missed and allowed Flomaton to exit with a 60-58 victory.
Leading scorers for Neal were Marcus Folmar, 18 points; Keith Woods, 15 points and J.J. Pitts, 10 points.
Northview 88, Neal 85
Plenty of offensive fireworks were on display when the Blue Eagles hosted the Northview Chiefs on Jan. 31. After trailing by 12 points entering the final quarter, the Blue Eagles caught fire on the offensive end and almost pulled off a comeback win.
The opening period was a hint of things to come, as the two teams swapped baskets before Northview closed out the quarter on top, 17-16.
Chiefs' 3-pointers in the second period were responsible for lifting the visitors to a 43-37 advantage as the teams headed to the locker room at intermission.
Outscoring the Blue Eagles 18-12 in the third stanza, the Chiefs appeared to be in control at 71-59 entering the fourth quarter. However, Keith Woods, J.J. Pitts and Nick Benjamin proceeded to light it up from the field in a final-period Blue Eagle rally. Neal closed the gap to a single point, 86-85, with 25 seconds to go in the game. However, the Chiefs converted a couple of clutch free throws after the Blue Eagles were forced to foul and returned home with an 88-85 win.
Offensive leaders for the Blue Eagles were Keith Woods, 32 points; J.J. Pitts, 22 points and Nick Benjamin, 14 points.