EPC repeats as NEA Tourney champs
East Poinsett County High School earned a repeat championship Friday in the NEA Tournament with another complete team effort over the tournament's surprise team, the Rivercrest Colts, by a score of 72-59.
Rivercrest was given a seventh seed in the NEA Tournament, while most of its team was playing in the 3A state football championship game. The Convocation Center in Jonesboro was abuzz with questions about the seeding when Rivercrest defeated Manila and Bay. EPC, meanwhile, was handily defeating each team that entered onto the court.
EPC and Rivercrest was a match the crowd was looking forward to.
EPC began the game with an 11-0 run. With foul trouble early for Arkansas-signee Rashad "Ky" Madden, the Colts were able to cut the lead to 14-8 at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the Warriors began to scrap their way to taking down rebounds and knocking down shots. The score was 42-29 at the half.
Despite the foul issues, the Warriors kept at the Colts and were able to roll to the 72-59 victory.
"I thought both teams played really hard," said EPC coach Josh Hill. "I thought we had them on the ropes multiple times, but Rivercrest would fight back or we would make a misplay. Rivercrest has a really good team. I told coach [Rick] Wilson they are a much improved team over last season. He has got a good group of guys."
Hill likes to run a high pressure defense, but due to the foul troubles, the Warriors had to kick into a zone defense.
"We had to play a lot of zone defense, which we hardly do, but we got into some foul trouble early with Ky having two fouls during the first quarter alone," Hill said. "It's not what we like to do, but it worked for us tonight. For the most part, we handled their pressure well. There are some things that I saw we can clean up."
While Madden was on the bench, Brady Jones was able to step up for his team. "Brady Jones was really big for us off the bench," Hill said. "He gives us a nice punch off the bench."
The repeat championship of the NEA Tournament comes at the heels of two other championships earned this season by the Warriors at the Barry Pruitt Hurricane Classic and the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament. Hill hopes to keep the winning ways through the 2A state tournament.
"Our guys like these big crowds and big games," Hill said. "These games don't bother our guys as far as a large atmosphere. We just need to keep chasing to the real big one at the end of the season."
Madden led the Warriors with 23 points. Jones had 17 points. A.J. Turner had 14, Jammar Sturdivant 13 and Byron Ford netted three points.
Demoine Brown led Rivercrest with 25 points.
Madden and the Warriors put on quite the offense show in their Dec. 29 matchup against Augusta, winning 85-58.
Madden wowed the crowd with three dunks, including an impressive slam off an alley-oop pass from Sturdivant.
It was a high pressure, fast paced game throughout. EPC lead after the first quarter by a score of 14-11. At the half, EPC was up 38-25.
Madden had 29 points for the Warriors, Sturdivant added 17 points. Brady Jones had 12, Darius Barnes eight, Byron Ford seven and A.J. Turner and Jori Ford each had six.
Ervin Gant led Augusta with 23 points.