Leading by eight with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, senior Zarion Griffin stole an arrant pass from a New Hampstead player and started to race up the sideline. Griffin made it just across halfcourt before being shoved into the Statesboro bench by Anthony Thomas.
Immediately both sides rushed to the scene, forcing coaches to hold back their teams. Thomas walked back to his bench, slow clapping. Fans jeered and asked for a technical, called for Thomas’ removal and gave the Phoenix senior other, less inviting remarks.
After a few minutes, Griffin was able to hobble back to the locker room with his arm draped around an assistant coach as Joseph Kilcup went to the line to take the technical foul free throws.
“I guess he was getting frustrated because we were making a run,” Statesboro head coach Lee Hill said of the altercation. “I thought the officials handled it very well.”
Twenty seconds of game time later, Griffin checked back in, the crowd gave a standing ovation and the senior didn’t come out until the Blue Devils picked up their fifth straight region win, defeating the Phoenix 62-47.
The second half run was fueled by Griffin, and it was a spark the Blue Devils desperately needed after scoring just 20 points in the first half.
“Griffin, my leading scorer, got into early foul trouble and couldn’t play the second quarter,” Hill said. “The third quarter, he was able to play and we kind of picked up the offense. I thought the group we left out there were able to maintain with the defense, but we weren’t getting any offense until the second half.”
Keeping the Blue Devils alive in the first half was freshman Leslie Black who had four points and Kilcup with five. Neither team was able to get an edge over the other in the first 16 minutes.
The third quarter started with a quick, five-point run from NHHS, but Black stopped it.
The 6-foot-6 freshman picked up a steal, drove the lane, went up for a dunk that was blocked, but still scored the layup. From then on, the Phoenix were playing catch up.
“This is a team who you beat on the road and you think it’s the same team, but it’s not,” Hill said. “They’re able to understand that now.”
Griffin ended the night with 24 points and Black had 16. Dontavian Leach led NHHS with 20.
At 16-5 overall, the Blue Devils will travel to Wayne County Tuesday for a region clash with the Yellow Jackets.
Lady Devils 59, Lady Phoenix 17
Lacy Robins scored nine points, two steals and four assists in the first quarter alone. Friday night’s game between Statesboro and New Hampstead was nothing short of a massacre as the Lady Blue Devils won 59-17 to improve to 5-0 in region play.
The rout was on from the get go as SHS won the opening tip, Robins hit a quick three and then stole the ball straight out of the air to go up 5-0 in the first minute of the game. SHS used a press and made the Lady Phoenix uncomfortable on offense.
The press worked so well that it took NHHS several possessions to even advance the ball past midcourt. Whether it was the three ball or precise ball movement, SHS quickly worked its way to a 25-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lady Blue Devils had a little more fun, but were still effective. Robins fed the paint with no-look passes and let it fly from beyond the arc.
Alexis Ward also continued her successful night by hitting a wide open three.
Statesboro’s worst quarter was the third quarter, only coming away with eight points. They still were able to keep NHHS in check by allowing just eight second half points.
Robins finished with a game-high 17 points and Ward had 12. Alaizha Hutchinson led the visitors with eight points.
The Lady Blue Devils will put their eight-game winning streak on the line Saturday as they travel to Glynn Academy.
Kirkland’s jersey retired
In between the boys and girls games, Sierra Kirkland’s jersey was retired. Kirkland was a four year varsity player for the Lady Blue Devils and averaged 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals her senior year.
Kirkland went on to play for Georgia Southern from 2012-2016. She ended her career with the Eagles tied for second in most games played with 120.