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WAP rally falls short vs. Eagles

At a glance, you might think a first-round match-up of third-seeded and fifth-seeded teams in an AISA Class A area tournament wouldn’t be much of a basketball game. Thursday night, you’d have been wrong.

The Sumter Academy Eagles defeated the West Alabama Prep Titans in dramatic fashion Thursday, 60-55. With the win, the Eagles advanced to the second round of the AISA Class A West Area IV boys tournament, where they faced Warrior Academy in Marion Friday.

The loss brings an end to WAP’s season, but after a year in which the team improved by leaps and bounds and showed plenty of commitment, even the opposing coach said the Titans had nothing to hang their heads over.

“Both teams played really well,” said Sumter head coach Steve Friday. “It was a good game of basketball.”

Sumter had won both regular season meetings between the teams, but with the most recent of the two having been played Dec. 9 an Eagle win was far from guaranteed. Nonetheless, Sumter played like the third seed and favored team in the second quarter, when they scored 24 points on their way to a 38-27 halftime lead. Leading the way was Joseph Reed, who connected on four-of-four first half three-pointers.

But WAP wasn’t ready to see their season end just yet. Behind the inspired play of sophomore guard Kyle Kennedy, who finished with a game-high 22 points, and senior guard Gene Samuels, who finished with 14, the Titans trimmed five points off the Eagle lead in the third quarter to trail 48-42 entering the final period.

The Titans continued to chip away and with just over 2 minutes to play, took a one-point lead, 53-52.

The Eagles recovered the lead on their next possession, however, and turned up the defensive pressure as the next few WAP possessions resulted in turnovers. A series of Sumter free throws then sealed the victory.

“I’m proud of my guys,” said Friday. “They didn’t panic when WAP came back. They kept their composure, made some steals, and we were able to win the game.”

Reed finished the game with 16 points to lead the Eagles. He was followed by Brandon Biggs with 13, Hunter Spidle with 12, Bill Tartt with 7, Drew Stuart and Steven Ray with 4, Stephen Dennis with 3, and Chris Robinson with 1.

In addition to Kennedy’s 22 and Samuels’ 14, WAP got seven points from Steven Cockreham and six points each from Jake Rich and Daniel Logan.

WAP finished the season with a 7-13 record.

Southern 75, Open Door 47

Fourth-seeded Southern Academy welcomed back leading scorer Wallace Drury from injury and easily dispatched of sixth-seeded Open Door.

Drury was one of three Cougars in double figures, finishing with 21 points while Jason Segura scored 19 and Matt Collins finished with 12.

Joining them on the scoresheet were Wes Henry with 9, Travis Rhodes with 6, Brandon Montz with 4, and Shaun Bonds and Josh Heurion with 2 each.

Southern advanced to face host team and top seed MMI Friday night.