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Devils advance
Statesboro shuts down Whitewater
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Statesboro's Eric Ferguson goes up for a shot against Whitewater's Jay Bright in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament Saturday night at SHS. The Blue Devils won 57-47. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file
    Stateboro knew its mission coming into Saturday night's contest with Whitewater. After 32 minutes: mission accomplished.
    Eric Ferguson had a game-high 16 points and the Blue Devils (18-11) contained the Wildcats' two big men to beat WHS 57-47 in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament.
    With 6-foot-10 center Stephen Sargent and 6-foot-6 forward Zach Scurry the main targets of Whitewater's offense, SHS prepared all week to contain the two men in the middle.
    "We fronted (Sargent) and did a good job with backside help," said SHS head coach Lee Hill. "But we were also concerned with (Scurry) because he can kill you on the backside."
    Sargent finished with just eight points for WHS (17-12), getting into foul trouble early in the third quarter and not seeing much playing time thereafter. Scurry finished with a team-high 15 points, seven of which came in the fourth quarter.
    "I knew they were going to be bigger than me," said SHS senior forward Morgan Doty, who scrapped his way to a big nine rebounds. "But I've never been that focused before a game before. I was just determined not to let us lose. It's the first time since I've been on varsity that we've got to the second round."
    While Justin Houston had his hands full with Sargent, Doty's backside help and feisty rebounds help SHS keep Whitewater off the scoreboard.
    The Blue Devils jumped out to an 18-11 lead after one thanks to three early steals by SHS and a 2:37 Wildcat drought to end the quarter.  
    Scurry would bring the visitors from Fayetteville back into the game with six second quarter points and Statesboro went the last 1:42 of the half without a point. The Blue Devils shot 2 of 13 from the field in the period but managed to cling to a 25-21 lead at the half.
    The third quarter may have been the difference in the game, as Whitewater was held to just seven points and went 4:05 without scoring at one point. The quarter ended on a Ferguson 3-point play to extend the lead to 40-28.
    "We didn't think that's how (Whitewater) would play," said the junior. "They were kinda weak, so we tried to take advantage of them. We knew they'd be gunning for us and they did play a good game against us."
    The Devils scored four quick points to open the fourth to stretch the advantage to 44-28, their largest of the game. The Cats attempted to make a comeback with a tenacious backcourt press and frontcourt trap, but could only get as close as eight with 24 seconds left in their season.
    Statesboro shot 43 percent from the field while holding WHS to 39 percent. The Wildcats, the No. 3 seed out of region 2-AAAA, shot just 35 percent through three quarters and turned the ball over a total of 14 times. Whitwater finished 7-for-11 from the line while SHS 14-for-28.
    Scurry ended the night with a double-double, pulling down 11 rebounds. No other Cat was in double figures and point guard Jay Bright was 2 of 11 shooting with four points.
    Houston had 10 points and nine boards for SHS, while point guard Shanchez Ware had nine and Sean LeGree added the same off the bench.
    Statesboro will travel to Macon on Thursday to face the winner of Griffin — Thomas County Central at the Mercer University Center at 8:30 p.m.
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.