The third time wasn't a charm for the Statesboro basketball team. The Blue Devils were playing Richmond Hill for the third time this year, and now for the third straight year the Blue Devils have won the regular season, and ended up as the No. 2 seed in the state tournament. Statesboro battled back from a 19-point second half Wildcat lead to cut the lead to four but couldn’t make the plays down the stretch and fell 65-57.
It would be great to see what a game between these two teams would look like with both teams at full strength. When the Wildcats won the first game at Richmond Hill the Blue Devils were without leading rebounder, and second leading scorer Tim Taylor. When Statesboro won the next meeting, the Wildcats were without leading scorer Jaeden Marshall.
Thursday Statesboro was missing 6-5 starting center Leslie Black with health issues, and senior guards Joe Kilcup and Kobe Altman for other reasons. After the game Statesboro Coach Keith LeGree did not want to discuss who was missing, but rather the Blue Devil players that were on the floor not following the game plan.
“Tonight’s loss has nothing to do with our depth and guys not being here,” said LeGree. “The problem was failure to execute the game plan. We explained to our kids how they have a couple players who can only dribble with one hand, but we forced the left-handed player left, and the right-handed player right and paid the price. We had a couple guys really play hard, but defense is where we have won many of our games this year, and tonight that is where we lost it.”
The game started off as a shootout with both teams on fire. Statesboro found success inside and out with Jarquez Garrett and Albert Mikell leading the charge, while Richmond Hill answered with 13 points from Jaeden Marshall. The Blue Devils would lead 22-20 at the end of the first.
The second quarter saw Mikell and leading rebounder Tim Taylor both forced to the bench with foul trouble, and the Wildcats closed the half on a 12-2 run to grab a 36-26 halftime lead.
The Wildcats continued to extend the lead in the third quarter to as many as 19 points at 49-30, but the Blue Devils battled back. Led by Albert Mikell 19 points) and Garrett (15 points) Statesboro would eventually cut the lead to four at 59-55. The Blue Devils were unable to get any closer though and will have to settle for the No. 2 seed in next week’s 6-A state playoffs.
“We failed to do the small things that you need to do to beat a good team,” said LeGree. “Now we have to see what we are made of and see if we can learn from a loss like this and rebound next week in the state tournament. We are young ,and a lot of these guys are going to have to grow up quickly if we are going to extend our season.”
Statesboro is expected to play a doubleheader Tuesday beginning at 6:00 as the girl’s won the region tournament and will take on Heritage.