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Buford bounces Blue Devils out of playoffs
SHS Basketball
Statesboro's Zarion Griffin attempts to loft a shot over Buford 7-footer James Munlyn during the Blue Devils second round state playoff loss on Wednesday.

The Statesboro Blue Devils dug themselves an early hole against Buford in the opening round of the state playoffs, and could never recover. The Blue Devils didn’t hit their first field goal until mid-way through the second quarter, and were down 28-3, before fighting back for a respectable 54-34 loss.

“I don’t know if it was the atmosphere, the seven foot center, or maybe we were just tight,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “Whatever the reason was we came out flat and couldn’t hit a thing. I thought we came back though, and the kids fought till the end.”

The game featured the two winningest coaches in the state of Georgia in Lee Hill and Buford’s Eddie Martin. Hill has over 850 wins in his 44 years of coaching, while Martin has coached for 38 years, and entered the season with just over 800.

Martin’s squad featured a seven foot center, and a couple of 6-5 forwards, but it was 5-9 guard Sebastian Augustave who killed the Blue Devils in the first half. Augustave had 20 points in the first half and was 6-8 from three point range.

The Blue Devils didn’t help themselves on offense, launching four air balls in their first six possessions. The Wolves play in the Buford City Arena, which is the size of a small college gymnasium with a raised floor and removable goals. The arena seats over 4,500, and Coach Hill feels that helped attribute to the Blue Devils slow start.

“This is a unique kind of place to play,” Hill said. “It’s tough to get used to, as the perspective is strange. I think it took us a while to get adjusted. I wish we would have come up the day before and shot around a little. Making this trip here is tough to just get off the bus after four or five hours and then play a game.”

The Blue Devils actually outscored Buford 31-26 after being down 28-3. Statesboro’s defensive pressure got to the Wolves in the second half. The Blue Devils actually cut the lead to 12 at 40-28  in the fourth quarter, but that’s as close as things would get.

“I really felt like we played pretty well defensively all game,” Hill said. “Our pressure really got to them in the second half, but shooting so poorly in the first half really hurt us.”

“Buford is definitely a good team, but they aren’t 20 points better than us,” Hill said. “I hate it for our seniors to have to go out on a note like this. They have meant a lot to our program and we will really miss them.”

Zarion Griffin struggled for most of the first half, but came back with eight points in the second half, and finished with 10 points. Freshman Leslie Black had 11 points to lead the way for the Blue Devils. Buford was led by Augustave with 20 points, while Caleb Williams had 14.

Statesboro ends the season with a record of 22-7.