E.A. Sports Today

Lions come close

Faith Christian nearly pulls off biggest upset in program history, gives 6A Fort Payne all it can handle before falling in fourth quarter

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

GLENCOE – When you’re a 1A sports program most everyone you play is going to be bigger than you.

To beat three programs from larger classifications on consecutive days is a tall order, but Faith Christian nearly pulled it off Wednesday, giving 6A Fort Payne all it could handle before falling in the closing seconds 61-58 on the final day of the Glencoe Thanksgiving Classic.

“I said before the game to our guys if we did what we were supposed to do I knew we could play with them and I was going to be happy no matter the outcome,” Lions coach Cory Hughes said. “And I’m happy with that outcome. Gave us a chance to win it right there at the end and shots don’t go in.”

The Lions, who beat 3A Glencoe and 4A Cleburne County for their first two wins of the season, scored the first 10 points of the game and jumped out to a 12-point lead early in the second quarter. And they did it so easily it sent those who like such details to start researching the largest team they have ever beaten.

Records are limited, but since 2013, the Lions have beaten several 3A programs in the county and 4A Jacksonville in 2016. But had they pulled off their David act on Wednesday, Fort Payne would have been the largest opponent they’ve taken down since knocking off 5A Cleburne County in 2017.

Then Lions leader Ethan Richerzhagan picked up his third foul, sat most of the second quarter and the Wildcats got back into it, climbing back to within two by halftime.

It stayed close the entire second half. The key stretch came midway through the fourth quarter.

Thomas Curlee’s runner in the lane gave the Lions (2-4) a 54-48 lead with 4:25 to play, but then they made four straight turnovers that led to seven Fort Payne points and never led again.

Richerzhagen hit a free throw with 1:41 to tie it at 55, then Eli Kirby put back a rebound and Malik Turner converted a Faith pass to nowhere into a layup and the Wildcats never trailed again.

“Four really dumb passes, four really stupid mistakes,” Hughes said. “Our guys, I’m sure, wish we had them back.”

It was the second time this season the Lions have lost a comfortable lead late in the game. They led Talladega County Central by eight with three minutes left before losing by three in overtime.

“It’s all about discipline,” Hughes sad. “It’s one of the things we’ve been working on since I got here in the summer, just discipline ourselves to do our job every time.

“And through six games now our guys slowly learning the lesson that doing your job every time creates a good outcome. But there at the end I think we started feeling worried because we were thinking ‘Oh my gosh we can do this’ and we decide to try to play pickup ball with them and pickup ball for us doesn’t go well.”

Things couldn’t have started better for the Lions. Curlee opened the scoring with two baskets and Colton Pahman and Jacques Prater each hit a 3-pointer and they had a 10-0 lead two minutes into the game. Demonde Bell opened the second quarter with a pair of baskets and the lead swelled to 24-12.

Fort Payne 61, Faith Christian 58
FORT PAYNE (5-2) –
Shaq Hawkins 1 0-0 2, Connor Cash 1 4-8 6, Malik Turner 7 1-2 15, Nolan Fowler 2 3-6 7, Jake Barnes 0 0-0 0, Alan Harcrow 1 1-1 3, Ethan Evett 0 1-2 1, Marcus Ledford 0 1-2 1, Eli Kirby 9 4-5 22, Darrell Prater 2 0-0 4. Totals 23-63 15-28 61. 
FAITH CHRISTIAN (2-4) –Yashua Arevalo 1-7 4-8 6, Jacques Prater 2-4 6-8 12, Thomas Curlee 8-14 1-4 20, Ethan Richerzhagen 3-11 4-10 10, Demonde Bell 3-4 0-1 7, Colton Pahman 2-4 0-1 5. Totals 19-44 15-32 58.
Fort Payne            12 13  17   19  –  61
Faith Christian   20   7  19   12  –  58
3-point goals: Fort Payne 0-15; Faith Christian 5-16 (Prater 2-3, Curlee 1-3, Richerzhagen 0-4, Bell 1-2, Pahman 1-2, Arevalo 0-2). Technical fouls: Hawkins 2, Turner, FP coach Banks). Fouled out: Hawkins, Ledford. Total fouls: Fort Payne 26, Faith Christian 18. Officials: Morriss, Brown, Whiteside.

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