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Eagles put an end to regular season Area drought

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
There have not been many positives for the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles in a stretch where they have dropped 16 of 18 games, but they came up with two big ones Tuesday when they knocked off the visiting Straughn Tigers 52-49.
The victory was W.S. Neal's sixth of the season and enabled them to top last year's victory total of five.
Perhaps an even bigger step forward for the W.S. Neal program was the Blue Eagles halted a 22-game losing streak in regular season Area competition. The Blue Eagles last won an area game back in the 2001-02 season when they edged Flomaton 67-65 in a Class 3A Area 1 tilt.
The Blue Eagles looked to be headed to their 23rd straight Area loss most of the first half. Straughn used a pair of field goals by Alphonso Freeney and Trent Driver and a three-pointer by Andrew Carter to open up a 15-7 lead in the opening frame.
The Tigers, who led 18-13 at the end of the first quarter, stretched that cushion up to a first half high of 25-16 on Trevor Driver's field goal midway through the second quarter.
Buckets by Jake Bailey and Sherman Sanders in the final minute of the first half trimmed the lead to 27-23, but Straughn picked up what loomed to be a key point most of the second half when Carter hit a technical foul shot that was whistled on the W.S. Neal bench after the horn sounded.
The Blue Eagles stormed back in the first three minutes of the second half on back-to-back offensive rebound buckets by Sanders, a steal and layup by B.J. McMillian and a free throw by Cecil Thomas put W.S. Neal in front 30-28.
Straughn was able to regain its lost momentum from the perimeter, as a pair of three-pointers by Carter and another trey by Ross Parker put the Tigers up 39-35.
A free throw and field goal by Bailey in the final minute of the third quarter trimmed Straughn's lead to 39-38. The Blue Eagles then got two buckets by Sanders and another hoop by Marquis by Barksdale at the start of the fourth quarter to put W.S. Neal up 44-39.
Every time the Blue Eagles appeared to turn the game in their favor, Straughn answered back. Three-pointers by Bilyon Jones and Andrew Huggins moved the Tigers back ahead 45-44 with 4:49 left.
The seesaw finally swung permanently in W.S. Neal's favor when McMillian scored off an inbounds pass from Jonathan Alexander with three minutes left to put W.S. Neal up 46-45.
Baskets by Bailey and Cecil Thomas over the next two minutes extended the W.S. Neal lead to 50-45 with just over a minute left.
Carter hit two free throws with 1:13 left to make it 50-47, but McMillian iced the victory with a pair of foul shots with 13 seconds left to make it a two-possession lead.
W.S. Neal's junior varsity held Straughn scoreless for more than a quarter to start the game, as it notched a 32-19 victory.
Chris Brazile knocked in 10 points to pace the Blue Eagles (12-4), while Jimmy Wilson had nine.
At W.S. Neal
Straughn 18 10 11 10 – 49
W.S. Neal 13 10 15 14 – 52
STRAUGHN (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Carter 0-3-4-13; Tren. Driver 4-0-1-9; Huggins 2-1-1-8; Trev. Driver 2-0-3-7; Freeney 3-0-0-6; Parker 0-1-0-3; Jones 0-1-0-3 (Totals: 11-6-9-49)
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Sanders 8-0-0-16; Jak. Bailey 6-0-2-14; McMillian 3-0-2-8; Thomas 1-1-1-6; Alexander 1-0-1-3; Barksdale 1-0-1-3; Ron. Travis 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 21-1-7-52)
Junior varsity
Straughn 0 9 4 6 – 19
W.S. Neal 6 5 13 8 – 32
STRAUGHN (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Rabren 2-1-0-7; Armstrong 1-1-1-6; Powell 1-0-0-2; Kinsaul 1-0-0-2; Felton 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 6-2-1-19)
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Brazile 5-0-0-10; Wilson 3-1-0-9; J. Travis 3-0-2-8; Payne 1-0-0-2; McCreary 1-0-0-2; Lambert 0-0-1-1 (Totals: 13-1-3-32)
Eagles make it two straight
W.S. Neal made it two consecutive wins for the first time since the opening week of the season Friday when it rallied for a 60-55 win at Frisco City.
The Blue Eagles' win avenged a 51-41 loss to the Whippets at East Brewton back in December.
The Blue Eagles (7-16) trailed 28-17 at halftime, but started to rally in the third quarter. Back-to-back three-pointers by B.J. McMillian gave W.S. Neal a spark although the Whippets still led 36-32 through three quarters.
The game's biggest turning point came early in the fourth quarter when Cecil Thomas hit a three-pointer, was fouled and converted the free throw for a four-point play to tie the game at 36-36.
Thomas later added a couple more key buckets in the fourth quarter, as W.S. Neal erupted for 28 points in the final frame to get the win.
W.S. Neal's junior varsity overcame a four-point halftime deficit to edge Frisco City 46-40.
Chris Payne and Jimmy Wilson both had 14 points to lead the Blue Eagles (13-4).
W.S. Neal begins the final week of regular season play Monday at Georgiana. W.S. Neal will have its home finale Tuesday against Pleasant Home.
At Frisco City
W.S. Neal 11 6 15 28 – 60
Frisco City 16 12 8 19 – 55
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Thomas 2-3-5-18; McMillian 2-2-2-12; Alexander 3-0-3-9; Sanders 2-0-5-9; Ron. Travis 1-1-1-6; Green 2-0-0-4; Madison 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 13-6-16-60)
FRISCO CITY (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Hill 2-5-6-25; Taylor 4-0-1-9; Williams 4-0-0-8; Banks 2-0-2-6; English 1-0-3-5; Johnson 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 14-5-12-55)
Junior varsity
W.S. Neal 11 10 12 13 – 46
Frisco City 12 13 5 10 – 40
W.S. NEAL (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Wilson 5-1-1-14; Payne 4-0-6-14; J. Travis 3-0-0-6; B. Bradley 3-0-0-6; Lambert 2-0-0-4; Brazile 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 18-1-7-46)
FRISCO CITY (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Hines 6-1-4-19; Rankins 0-3-0-9; Love 1-2-0-8; Kelsin 2-0-0-4 (Totals: 9-6-4-40)
NOTE: W.S. Neal won a coin toss over Straughn for the third seed in next month's Area Tournament at Clarke County.
That sets up a matchup for W.S. Neal against second-seeded T.R. Miller, while fourth-seeded Straughn faces top-seeded Clarke County. First-round play starts February 10.