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Blue Devils cruise

Statesboro secures trip to state playoffs

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    Statesboro shut out visiting Brunswick in the second quarter and held the Pirates without a point over a stretch of 10:01 to cruise to a 57-29 victory Tuesday in the first round of the region 3-AAAA tournament.
    The Blue Devils led just 13-9 after one, but by halftime had stretched their lead to 26-9 and then 39-19 after three. The win sends SHS (16-10) to the final four of the region tourney and qualifies them for the state tournament that starts Feb. 23.
    The difference in Friday night’s contest was limiting the Pirates’ outside shooting.
    “We felt like if we could make them shoot the 3s they weren’t going to make them all night long,” said senior forward Justin Houston. “We protected the inside. We’d rather have them shoot the 3 than get the easy two.”
    The plan worked, as BHS (9-16) shot just 1-for-16 from beyond the arc.
    “We knew that they loved to shoot the 3,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “We knew that they loved to set picks for their shooters. So we just switched off when they did that and did a good job of forcing them out a little deeper.”
    The Pirates had their chance in the first half, however. After digging itself a quick 6-0 hole, BHS varied its 3-2 zone by trapping the SHS ball handlers on the corner of the floor. The change forced the Devils into seven first-quarter turnovers and allowed the Pirates to cut the gap to within four by the end of one.
    “Once we got to where we could see what they were running, we got patient on offense and began to move the ball around a lot,” said senior point guard Shanchez Ware. “Then we got a lot of open shots and got a lot of team shots tonight.”
    The Devils may have been too patient at times, going 9:11 without a field goal at one point. Any sort of offensive spark for Brunswick may have made for a different ending, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Pirates shot 18 percent from the field in the first half and turned the ball over nine times.
    When Brunswick’s Jeff Brown finally scored with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter to break his team’s scoring drought, the Pirates had already slipped to a 26-11 deficit.
    Houston led all scorers with 16 points while pulling down 11 rebounds. Eric Ferguson added 10 points, Jared Houston seven and Ware, Sean LeGree and Nakeavis Hunter all had six each.
    Brown was the only Pirate to reach double figures with 11 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double.
    Statesboro shot 52 percent form the field and was 10 of 15 from the free-throw line. The Pirates final mark from the field was a rough 25 percent.
    The Blue Devils travel to the Academy of Richmond County Friday to face Wayne County in the semifinals of the region 3-AAAA tournament.
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