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Blue Devils overachieve
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    The Statesboro Blue Devils ended their season with a 71-50 loss to Griffin Thursday night in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament. Their performance was not very impressive that night, but considering what type of team head coach Lee Hill had this year, an 18-12 finish and a run to the second round of the state tourney was more than he could have hoped for.
    “I thought the kids really did a great job,” said Hill. “To not have much experience at the beginning of the season, I thought they really improved. I wish we could have went further — but I think we got about as much as we could out of this team.”
    Unlike most state tournament teams, the Devils were without a 20 point-a-night scorer, big time win-loss record or top Division I prospect.
    “I thought they overachieved. With the talent we had and what we had coming back, I really thought they overachieved.”
    Statesboro, as is most always the case, played a brutal non-region schedule to open the season. Add that to the fact that leading scorer Justin Houston didn’t truly join the team until January, and injuries and illnesses kept other Devils out early earns SHS that much more respect. The Blue Devils faced six teams who qualified for state tournament play.
    It was also a monumental season for Hill, who eclipsed the 600 win mark for his career. He also kept his never-had-a-losing-season streak alive by guiding SHS six games over .500.
    The Devils finished in second place in region 3-AAAA during the regular season and fell in the 3-AAAA region tournament championship, earning a No. 2 seed in the state playoffs. Seniors Jared Houston and Morgan Doty emerged down the stretch as big time role players for SHS.
    “These (seniors) have been with me for a long time — for four years,” said Hill. “I thought they gave it all they had. The thing about these seniors is there never were any discipline problems. There good guys and they all have a chance to go to (college) somewhere, whether they’ll be playing ball or not.”
    Statesboro loses six seniors in all, but will return slashing forward Eric Ferguson and guard Mario Jackson. Hill said this season, more than anything, showed his returning players the ups-and-downs of a season and he feels confident they know what to expect coming into next year.
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9408.