For Statesboro, the party was over before the fun ever started.
The No. 2 seed Blue Devils fought hard all night, but never took control as No. 3 Banneker pulled off a 50-46 upset in the first round of the Georgia High School Association state playoffs Saturday night at the Devil’s Den.
Despite trailing for almost the entire game, Statesboro was still within 48-46 with 13.2 to go, but Edwin Harvey’s last-second 10-footer was just off and Ryann Green secured the rebound with 0.6 seconds to go to seal the win for the Trojans.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “We couldn’t seem to find a break, and it seemed like every time we made a run, (Banneker) came right back.
“I give a lot of credit to Banneker. They’re a great team from a very tough region. We knew that tonight was going to be tough.”
Statesboro was behind the eight-ball all night as the Trojans quickly shot the Devils out of their zone and built a 17-6 lead after the first quarter.
Foul trouble for Jaqawn Raymond — who led the Devils with 16 points — spelled more trouble as the SHS offense struggled through the first half with their biggest scoring threat on the bench.
With its season on the line, the Devil defense cracked down and allowed just four points in the second quarter, but Statesboro still trailed 21-17 at halftime.
The Devils made their biggest charge early in the third quarter.
Raymond, Jonathan Taylor (9 points) and Reggie Owens (8 points) all recorded 3-point plays, but Banneker answered with a pair of 3’s from Sherrod White and another from Hakeem Watson.
Raymond finally pulled SHS even with a leaner at the 1:00 mark of the third quarter, but picked up a questionable fourth foul on a charge after stealing the ball seconds later.
Just before time ran out on the third quarter, Michael Summer hit a reverse layup to give the Devils their only lead of the night at 32-30.
“Our guys really picked up the slack,” said Hill. “We know that Jaqawn can score, but it was good to see some other guys step up when we had to sit Raymond on the bench.”
In the final quarter, Green — who led the Trojans with 14 points — put his teammates on his shoulders.
Green hit on 10 of 12 free throw attempts to account for half of Banneker’s points over the final eight minutes.
After Raymond fouled out at the 2:51 mark, Taylor notched another 3-point play and Yakeem Coleman hit from 15 feet to keep Statesboro in the game, but Green continued to pour in free throws to keep the Devils just out of reach.
For the Blue Devils, Saturday’s loss was a disappointing repeat of last season when Statesboro bowed out to Glenn Hills in the opening round of the state tournament.
“It hurts to end the season like this, but I’m proud of our guys,” said Hill. “With only a couple of seniors this year, a lot of people probably didn’t think we would get this far.”
With the win, Banneker advances to the second round of the state playoffs.
Wednesday, the Trojans will either travel to No. 1 Fayette County or host No. 4 Northside, Warner Robins.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.