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Lady Blue Devils bounce back against Burke

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Lady Blue Devils bounce back against Burke

    One night after a disheartening setback, the Statesboro girls were determined not to let losing become a trend.
    The Lady Blue Devils trailed for much of the night, but kept grinding away and came up with a 67-55 victory over Burke County in Saturday’s first game.
    In a game that saw three technical fouls and plenty of bruising play, it was SHS coach Jeff Seier’s team that kept its cool in the clutch.
    “I was proud of the way our girls stuck with it,” said Seier. “This wasn’t a sub-region game, but with Burke being on the other side, they’re a team we might have to face in the region tournament. It was good to see us play an intense game and get the win.”
    Shanikwa Buie led the Devils (14-6, 2-1 Region 3-AAAA) racking up another double-double during her brilliant junior campaign with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
    Kiyera Whitaker netted 15 points and Caja Williams added 14 more in a well-rounded scoring effort.
    Statesboro held a slim 40-39 lead through three quarters of action, but fell behind after a pair of free throws from Charecia Walker (15 points, 8 rebounds) and another from Kaedia Phillips.
    The Devils finally took the lead for good at the 5:33 mark when Buie connected on a put-back bucket while being fouled, then drained her free throw for a 45-44 lead.
    The Lady Bears (9-7, 3-1) suffered a big blow on their ensuing possession as Amber McGee (15 points) injured her knee while bringing the ball up the floor. McGee returned to action late in the game, but didn’t score after going down.
    Statesboro continued to nurse a small lead, but Walker pulled Burke County within 55-54 on a pair of free throws with 1:51 to go. The Bears might have had an opportunity to take the lead after collecting a defensive rebound on the next SHS possession, but Phillips lost the ball out of bounds and was then whistled for a technical foul after arguing with an official.
    Tanice Johnson knocked down both technical free throws to extend the Devils’ lead back to 57-54.
    “It’s getting to that time where all of these games are important and things get a little intense,” said Seier. “We picked up a couple of technicals as well. That’s certainly not something we need any more of, but you can definitely see the effort and intensity there.”
    The Bears were still within 59-55 with 46 seconds to go, but Williams found Khayasia Rollins on a full-court pass for an easy bucket. Johnson then picked off a pass as the Bears desperately rushed up court, taking it the distance for a layup to ice the game.
    Just as Statesboro survived the final minutes while holding a slim advantage, Burke County played through much of the first half just a half step ahead of the Devils.
    McGee started the game hot and consecutive jumpers spurred the Bears to a 17-11 lead – their largest of the game – early in the second quarter. 3-pointers by Williams and Johnson helped to close the gap, but Burke maintained a 28-25 lead into halftime.

Bears be-Deviled in overtime
    The Statesboro boys notched a similar close win in Saturday’s final contest, but needed an extra four minutes to do so.
    Zaquavian Smith (15 points) knocked down a deep three with 7.1 seconds to play in regulation to tie things up and the Devils (18-3, 3-0 Region 3-AAAA) outlasted the Bears (12-5, 3-1) in the overtime period for a 58-55 win.
    Adding to the drama of the down-to-the-wire nature of the game and the nearly capacity crowd in attendance was the possibility that the cross-region rivals could meet again in the late rounds of next month’s region tournament.
    “Right now, Burke is the second place team on the other side of the region,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “I think we’ve played the best two teams on that side already. Hopefully, that prepares us and gives us some confidence.”
    Statesboro scored the first four points of overtime and Burke was never able to catch up. A missed free throw by Daniel Houston gave the Bears one more chance to tie with 3.1 seconds to play, but the inbounds pass was thrown away.
    The Devils had to dig themselves out of an early hole as the Bears recorded the game’s first nine points.
    Smith finally got Statesboro on the board late in the first quarter with an alley-oop jam and the Devils started rolling from there.
    Statesboro erased most of the early deficit, but still trailed 21-16 at halftime thanks to 10 first-half points from Kelvin Henry – who led all Burke scorers with 14. The Bears held their slim lead through most of the third quarter, but Smith hit a pair of free throws and Yakeem Coleman drove the length of the court for a layup to put SHS ahead 37-36 heading to the fourth quarter.
    Burke mounted its own rally in the fourth as Jeffrey Williams (10 points) hit jumpers on back-to-back possessions to give the Bears a late lead. Williams added a free throw to make it 49-46 with 1:02 to go.
    The Devils looked like they had missed their chance when O’Aaron Ware missed a layup with 32 seconds to play, but Henry was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up Smith’s last-second heroics.
    “We kept fighting the whole night,” said Hill. “Burke has a lot of athletes and they were able to get to us a little bit at times. But we kept our heads in the game and kept executing all the way until the end.”   
    Both Statesboro squads return to sub-region action next Friday as they host Liberty County.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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