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Road comes to an end for W.S. Neal boys, girls

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
For those who just looked at the final score of W.S. Neal's 76-50 loss to the Clarke County Bulldogs at Friday's Class 3A Area 1 Tournament held at T.R. Miller, one might say the Blue Eagles may have been in a hurry to get their long season over.
With a 1-21 record headed into postseason, who could blame the Blue Eagles. In this case, the final score was not indicative of the fight and desire the W.S. Neal players displayed throughout the game.
"It's a shame the score got lopsided near the end of the game. This was actually one of our best games of the season, especially from an effort standpoint," W.S. Neal coach Tom Lawler said.
The Blue Eagles could have decided to call it a season when Clarke County built a 17-3 lead in the first six minutes of the game thanks to a trio of buckets by Karl Johnson and a field goal and two charity tosses by Brad Morris. Instead W.S. Neal responded with arguably its best stretch of play of the season.
A three-pointer by Cory Freeman and a basket by Marcus Folmar off an inbounds pass helped the Blue Eagles cut that gap to 19-8 by the end of the period.
Folmar, who posted a game high 20 points, heated up even more early in the second quarter with a pair of buckets from inside the lane. Then after Jeremy Burch hit a three-pointer, Folmar also drained one from behind the arc that capped off a 15-5 run and cut Clarke County's advantage to just 22-18.
The momentum the Blue Eagles built during that stretch was quickly offset when Jonathan Horn converted a three-point play and Deforest Taite hit a three-pointer to get the lead back into double digits at 28-18.
After Folmar hit a pair of free throws, the Bulldogs closed out the half with field goals by Johnson and Taite that extended their lead to 32-20.
Clarke County appeared to be well on its way to victory when it began the second half with a 9-2 run over the first two minutes that swelled the gap to 41-22.
Once again the Blue Eagles found a way to battle back. A pair of buckets by Jonathan Alexander and field goals by Burch, Matt Hulley and Folmar cut the Bulldogs' lead to just 43-32 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Any hopes W.S. Neal entertained of getting even closer were dashed when Clarke County's Ben Burroughs hit five three-pointers in the final two minutes of the third quarter. The fifth of those treys gave Clarke County its biggest lead of the game up to that point at 58-37.
While that part pretty much settled the issue, W.S. Neal still had a few highlights left, especially from Folmar. The senior capped off a solid career with the Blue Eagles in the fourth quarter with a three-point play, a pair of free throws and a dunk for his last points as a high school player.
"We felt we had to keep the pace of the game in the 50s in order to have a chance to win and we did a decent job of that most of the game. The real killer was when Burroughs hit those five three-pointers in the last two minutes of the third quarter. That's just one of those things that sometimes happens," Lawler said.
Lawer said the biggest thing players in the program need to do between now and next year is work on skill development.
"The kids just need to get out and play more. They need to play more in the summer. They need to play more while they are younger. The more you play, the more your skills develop," Lawler said.
Clarke County's win moved it into Saturday's Area 1 championship game against T.R. Miller, which had a first-round bye. The Bulldogs also clinched a berth in Friday's sub-regional round.
At T.R. Miller
W.S. Neal 8 12 19 11 – 50
Clarke County 19 13 26 18 – 76
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Folmar 6-1-5-20; Thomas 2-1-2-9; Burch 1-2-0-8; Freeman 1-1-0-5; Hulley 1-0-2-4; Alexander 2-0-0-4 (Totals:
See EAGLES Page 7
13-5-9-50)
CLARKE COUNTY (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Burroughs 0-6-0-18; Johnson 8-0-0-16; Morris 3-0-3-9; Davis 3-0-1-7; Hill 3-0-0-6; Horn 1-0-3-5; Taite 1-1-0-5; McRae 1-0-2-4; Kimbrough 2-0-0-4; Smith 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 23-7-9-76)