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Statesboro fends off SAA Panthers

Statesboro fends off SAA Panthers

Statesboro fends off SAA Panthers

Statesboro's Pablo Martinez, center, ...


    An offense-heavy first half gave way to a defensive second half, but Hector Angeles’s strike from 15 yards out proved to be the decisive goal in Statesboro’s 3-2 victory over Savannah Arts Tuesday at Womack Field.
    The Blue Devils (11-2) took an early lead, but faced a 2-2 tie at halftime. While Statesboro controlled much of the action in the second half, they remained even with the Panthers (9-3-1) until finally pulling away with 7:48 left to play.
    In their last regular season game — and with just a week remaining until the Region 3-AAAA tournament begins — the Devils were glad to get a good challenge.
    “We were definitely happy to come away with a win,” SHS coach Nick Thrower said. “We know that we’re going to face teams like Savannah Arts in the postseason. I give them a lot of credit. They’re a good team and they really pushed us.”
    Statesboro jumped out to an early lead as Wesley Budget slipped a shot past Panther goalkeeper Cullen Prince off a nice pass from Alex Wagner.
    Just over a minute later, Savannah Arts forward Coltraine Williams knotted the game at 1-1 when he corralled a header out of the SHS defensive zone and beat keeper Justin Smith.
    Later in the first half Prince saved a Statesboro shot, but Blue Devil forward Emilio Quintero gathered the deflection off the save and easily found the back of the net.
    Once again, Williams answered for Savannah Arts as he curved a shot into the right side of the net to even the game at halftime.
    “I liked how we executed,” Thrower said. “We had to make some defensive adjustments, but I think we played solidly and that allowed us to push more people forward to create more offense.”
    Statesboro controlled the pace throughout most of the second half, but was constantly turned away at the Panthers’ 18-yard box.
    Finally, Angeles was able to break through.
    With time winding down and three SHS forwards pressing upfield, Angeles beat his man, collected a long pass, and fired into the top of the net.
    Williams nearly tied the game for a third time less than a minute later.
    Tyler Proctor was given a red car — which was later rescinded and will not cause him further suspension — and Williams was awarded a penalty kick with 7:18 to play.
    Drew Funk, who replaced Smith in goal at halftime, guessed right on Williams’ shot low and to the left post, deflecting it harmlessly out of play.
    The Panthers mounted a few more possessions into Blue Devil territory, but weren’t able to record another shot on net as Statesboro held tight and ran out the clock.
    Statesboro now begins postseason play.
    Next Tuesday, the Devils will host Cross Creek in the first round of the Region 3-AAAA playoffs. Statesboro needs to win its next game in order to clinch a berth in the state playoffs for a second consecutive season.

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

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