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NMS basketball teams open year with wins

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
While they took different paths to reach their intended destination, the result was the same for the W.S. Neal Middle School basketball teams in Thursday's season opener against visiting Ernest Ward.
While the Eagles rallied in the fourth quarter for a 33-27 victory, the Lady Blue Eagles led from start to finish in their 26-16 triumph.
In the boys game, the only advantage W.S. Neal had during the first three quarters was a brief 4-3 lead in the opening moments of the game.
In fact, Ernest Ward opened up a double digit advantage of 21-11 with just over a minute left in the first half before the Blue Eagles started to close the gap.
Buckets by Bob Elliott and Jason Bailey in the final minute of the first half trimmed the gap to 21-15 at halftime.
W.S. Neal crept even closer early in the third quarter when a basket by Jeremy Nicholson plus a basket and free throw by Bailey cut Ernest Ward's lead to just 21-20.
It would not be until there were four minutes left when W.S. Neal got over the remainder of hump when a basket by Nicholson gave the Blue Eagles a 26-25 lead.
While Ernest Ward was able to wrestle the lead back with a bucket on the other end, it was another hoop by Nicholson from down low with two minutes left that put W.S. Neal back in front 28-27. This time it would not relinquish the advantage. Nicholson finished with a game high 16 points to pace the Blue Eagles.
The Lady Blue Eagles started their path to victory against Ernest Ward with back-to-back three-pointers by Freida Folmar and never trailed.
W.S. Neal, which led 11-4 at the end of the first quarter, extended its advantage to a first half high of 13-4 on Megan Andrews' offensive rebound bucket with just over two minutes left in the first half.
While Ernest Ward cut that cushion to 15-9 by halftime and down to 15-10 early in the third quarter, the Lady Blue Eagles would not let their opponent get any closer.
Sparked by three hoops and a free throw by Folmar, who tallied a game high 13 points, W.S. Neal went on a 9-1 run over the next seven minutes that knocked its lead up to a game high bulge of 24-11.
The W.S. Neal teams will be back in action Monday when they host Brewton. Play starts at 5 p.m.
Boys game
Ernest Ward 13 8 4 2 – 27
W.S. Neal 8 7 9 9 – 33
W.S. NEAL- Nicholson 16, Elliott 8, Bailey 7, Alexander 3, Campbell 1
Girls game
Ernest Ward 4 5 2 5 – 16
W.S. Neal 11 4 4 7 – 26
W.S. NEAL- Folmar 13, Hawthorne 4, Andrews 4, Harris 3, Kyles 2