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Blue Devils hang on
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Statesboro High's Eric Ferguson, 2, skies over Lakesides Justin Pitick, lower left, for a rebound Tuesday night. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    With just under two minutes to play, Lakeside looked like it was going to waltz right into Statesboro and upset the Blue Devils on their home court.
    Eric Ferguson would have none of it.
    The senior forward hit a pull-up jumper at the free-throw line to tie the game then drained a 3 to give SHS (8-8, 3-0 Region 3-AAAA) the lead for good in a 70-61 win Tuesday night.
    “We called a timeout and I told Eric he’s going to have to step it up,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “He had his head down a little bit, but he stepped it up and he was ready to play. That’s a good sign, and that’s what I told the guys. After you lose a leader like Mario (Jackson) — the kids didn’t panic, and that’s a good sign.”
    The Devils lost junior leader Jackson just prior to Ferguson’s game-tying shot with five fouls. Ferguson sank the jumper over two Panther defenders, then after a LHS turnover, pump-faked a defender and buried the devastating trey from the corner.
    It was a fitting end to a wild contest in which Lakeside (9-8, 0-2 Region 3-AAAA) led twice under three minutes to go.
    Rosbie Mutcherson put the Panthers up 57-56 with a 3 off an inbound play and the lead went to three on a CJ Marshall steal and layup. Lakeside’s 2-1-2 zone stymied the SHS offense for the first 4 1/2 minutes of the fourth as the Devils didn’t score until the 3:28 mark.
    Statesboro retied the game after a Rashad Lee free throw and a Jackson drive and underhand lay-in to knot the contest at 59. Marshall hit two free throws to give LHS its final lead.
    Lakeside had a chance to tie, but Jared Ackerman’s 10th 3-point attempt of the game was no good. The senior forward hit six 3s, leading LHS with 21 points
    The Blue Devils were lucky to get out of the first quarter alive.
    Lakeside opened the game on a 12-2 run, capitalizing on the sloppy play of SHS. Jackson and Xavier Tolliver hit back-to-back 3s to awaken SHS, but the Devils were still down 19-12 after one.
    “We’ve been playing a lot of guys — guys like Eric and Mario, and I think too the game time today was different,” said Hill on Statesboro’s slow start. “These guys didn’t get a chance to go home — but you got to give credit to Lakeside, those guys made a lot of shots. We feel like every game from here on out in the region we’re going to have to come out ready to play.”
    Ferguson opened the scoring in the second with a cross-over jam to keep momentum going. Ferguson beat his man on the perimeter, went airborne with his right hand, then crossed the ball into his left and finished with a two-handed stuff. The senior finished the game with 24 points and six rebounds.
    Statesboro didn’t find its first lead until 1:54 remaining on two more Lee free throws, going up 29-28. It was part of a 16-1 SHS run to end the half as Lakeside went the last four minutes without a point.
    Statesboro led by as many as 12 in the third before the Panthers began to claw their way back in the game.
    Lee went 6-for-6 from the line and finished with nine points while Jackson added 17. Mutcherson tallied 11 for LHS and Marshall added 10. Statesboro turned the ball over 24 times, but was 19 of 25 from the charity stripe.

Lady Blue Devils 56,
Lady Panthers 42
    The Statesboro Lady Blue Devils had no problems with visiting Lakeside Tuesday, winning 56-42.
    At one point in the fourth quarter, Monnette Bennett had more points — 25 — than the entire Lakeside team — 23. But with the game in hand, Bennett left the game and the Lady Panthers (11-6, 2-4 Region 3-AAAA) wound up going on to score 42.
    The Lady Devils (13-3, 2-1 Region 3-AAAA) opened the contest on an 11-2 flurry and never looked back. Lakeside had six turnovers in the first 2:35, and despite a 6-for-7 shooting clip in the first period, still trailed 19-13.
    Lakeside went cold in the second, missing its first eight shots and giving Bennett and the Devils chance to spread its lead. The senior Georgia Tech commit finished the half with 16 points and that was the margin for Statesboro at the half.
    Carolyn Hennecken had 14 to lead LHS. Victoria Mikell had 10 for SHS, Tiffany Lee added six and Gwen Jones pulled down eight rebounds.
    Statesboro travels to Evans on Friday for another tough region contest at 6:30 p.m.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.