EPC Warriors hold off Rivercrest rally
Three-time defending NEA champions East Poinsett County (EPC) opened defense of their title by holding off a Rivercrest charge in the fourth period to post a 76-68 win this past Friday in the boys' Division II NEA Invitational Tournament being held at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
Byron Scales got the first points of the game as he grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to give EPC a 2-0 lead. Bakeem Stewart tied the game for Rivercrest with a basket at 7:28 to make it 2-2. Jammar "Mookie" Sturdivant scored a basket at the 7:14 mark to put the Warriors up 4-2. Stewart grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to tie at the game at 4. Byron Scaled drilled a three-pointer from the left corner at 6:38 for a 7-4 EPC lead. The Colt's Marquez Chew was fouled and made one of two free throws to make it 7-5. Malik Monk slammed one home off an alley-oop pass from Sturdivant at 6:04 to put EPC up 9-5. Sturdivant hit a driving lay up while being fouled at 5:32 to make it 11-5. Sturdivant made is free throw making git 12-5 EPC. Garrett Lane canned a three-pointer for Rivercrest with 5:20 left to make it 12-8. Sturdivant hit two free throws and Paul Pilgrim hit back to back inside shot with the second coming off a nice pass from Monk to put EPC up 18-8. Aaron Scales scored on a lay up for EPC after taking a pass from Sturdivant after a steal to make it 20-8 with 3:33 left in the first. Khalil Williams hit free throws for the Colts making it 20-10. Pilgrim scored inside, Monk hit two free throws and Pilgrim made a lay up off a sweet pass from Sturdivant to make it 26-10 with 2:01 left. Keshurde Johnson scored a basket at 1:03 and Kavian Ingram hit a three for the Colts with 36 seconds left to set the first period score at 26-15 Warriors.
Thai Harris opened the second period by canning a three-pointer for Rivercrest to make it 26-18 with 7:40 left to play. Sturdivant went coast to coast for a lay up before Byron Scales got inside for a basket putting the score at 30-18. Strudivant was fouled and made two free throws before Williams got inside for Rivercrest to make it 32-20 with 4:45 to play. Byron Scales hit one of two free throws making it 33-20. DaJohn Thomas made an inside basket, Chew made a free throw and Williams made two free throws to cut the lead to 33-25 with 2:17 left in the half. Byron Scales got inside to score for EPC and Chew rebounded his own missed shot and scored to make the score 35-27 with 2:00 left. Chris Whitfield got a put back basket for the Warriors at 1:43 and DeSean Gordon hit a free throw to make it 37-28 with 52 seconds left. Monk broke free and threw down a two-handed slam dunk with 28 seconds and Ingram made a basket inside for the Colts to make it 39-30 EPC at the half.
EPC stretched their lead to 13 as Pilgrim hit one of two free throws and Monk canned a three-pointer to make it 43-30 with 7:25 left. Chew cut the lead to eight with a three-pointer and lay up for the Colts making it 43-35 before Stewart got inside for Rivercrest and scored to make it 43-37. Monk sandwiched a pair of inside baskets around a Sturdivant lay up off a nice spin move to make it 49-37 at the 4:12 mark. Gordan and Strudivant swapped a pair of free throws and Harris and T.J. Young swapped lay ups to make it 53-41 EPC with 1:40 left to play. EPC closed the period by scoring six points to stretch the lead to 59-41. Byron Scales made a lay up, Monk hit one of two free throws after being fouled and then drilled a three-pointer with 4 seconds left in the period.
Rivercrest got to within five in the final period but EPC had an answer for every Rivercrest threat. Monk scored on a monster one hand slam after driving the full length of the floor less than a minute into the period putting EPC up 61-41. Williams got inside at 7:15 making it 61-43 EPC. Sturdivant hit free throws for the Warriors and Gordan scored on a lay up, Williams got inside for a score and Chew hit two free throws for Rivercrest cutting the lead to 63-49. Monk hit one of two free throws for EPC before the Colts scored the next seven cutting the lead to 64-56. Stewart hit a jumper before Glenn Brown drilled a three from the left corner and then got a fast break lay at 3:59. Sturdivant scored on a lay up and was fouled at 3:44. Sturdivant hit the free throw to make it 67-56. Williams got an offensive rebound and scored for the Colts followed by Monk making two free throws to make it 69-58 EPC. Chew worked his way inside for a basket for Rivercrest making it 69-60. Pilgrim hit a free throw to put EPC up 70-60 with 2:41 left. Stewart rebounded his own miss and scored and was fouled. Stewart's free throw made it 70-63 and Williams hit a jumper to cut the lead to 70-65. Sturdivant hit three of four free throws over the next minute and a half to make it 73-65 EPC. Williams canned a three from the left wing for Rivercrest to make it 73-68 with 16 seconds left. Sturdivan finished the scoring hitting three of four free throws to make the final 76-68 EPC.
"Early on we took good shots and got what we wanted," EPC coach Josh Hill commented about his team. "We got caught up playing the kind of game they (Rivercrest) wanted and starting settling for the for the first thing we saw," Hill added.
Sturdivant led all scorers with 26 points on the night for EPC. Monk added 22 points, Byron Scales chipped in 12 and Pilgrim netted 10 point for the Warriors. Williams led the Colts with 17 points. Chew added 13 points and Stewart finished with 11 points for Rivercrest.