It’s rare that a team comes into the Statesboro gym and leaves having swept the Blue Devils, but that’s exactly what happened Tuesday night. The games were close to say the least, but it was the visiting Wayne County Yellow Jackets stinging the Blue Devils as the girls lost in overtime 52-48, and the boys lost 54-53 on a three pointer in the final seconds.
The Statesboro girls came in ranked No. 2 in the state, sporting an impressive 21-1 record including a perfect 5-0 in region play. A win Tuesday would have sewn up the region title, and home court advantage in the region tournament. Wayne County came in with an impressive 17-3 record (4-2), and knew a win would keep their hopes alive as well.
The Blue Devils led by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, but the Yellow Jackets Terren Ward put the team on her back and led them on a run scoring 15 of her game high 28 points in the fourth quarter.
The game would be full of drama in the fourth quarter and overtime. Trailing by two on two different possessions down the stretch in regulation Ward hit back to back layups to tie the game at 40-40.
Statesboro would take a 43-42 lead, but with :19 seconds left the Blue Devils tried to get the ball inside to Destiny Hartwell, but turned it over. On the turnover Lacy Robins picked up her fifth foul reaching in, sending Ward to the line where she made the first, but missed the second leaving the game tied at 43-43.
“We played well without Lacy for a lot of the game as she was in foul trouble,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Seir. “We played well in the fourth, and then had a chance in overtime without her, so that is a positive.”
The Blue Devils still had time to get off one last shot, and Jamiah Jones had a good look, but her runner from about six feet sawy fell off the mark sending the game to overtime.
In overtime the Jackets took a three point lead on another Ward bucket, but Statesboro answered with a three pointer by Sarah Ellis to tie the game at 48-48.
The Jackets answered again with Ward, who followed up her own miss with a rebound, and a putback, and the Jackets would hold on to win 52-48.
“A few calls didn’t go our way that we thought we should have gotten,” Seir said. “But that’s the way things go sometimes. We now have to regroup and win Friday at Ware County to keep the number one seed.”
Robins led Statesboro with 24 points, Ellis added 10 points. Wayne County was led by Ward with 28 points.
Yellow Jackets 53, Blue Devils 52
Statesboro High head coach Lee Hill has preached free throw shooting the entire season. In most of their losses the Blue Devils could look at their free throw percentage and know whether they won or lost a game. Tuesday night Statesboro was an abysmal 7-17 from the free throw line, and it cost them once again as they fell to Wayne County 53-52.
“We missed so many free throws down the wire,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “You can’t do that against a good team like Wayne County and expect to win.”
The Blue Devils didn’t do anything particularly well Tuesday night, but they still managed to hold a 52-50 lead in the final seconds Tuesday against Wayne County. The Yellow Jackets took over with 15 seconds to go in the game following a time out, and ran a screen to get their most dependable shooter, Anthony Grant, open for a good look at the basket.
Coach Lee Hill had told his team during the time out that Wayne would try and set a screen for Grant, and told the team to switch on a screen. Wayne did just that, the Blue Devils failed to switch, and Grant hit nothing but net for a 53-52 lead with five seconds remaining,
“We told them exactly what was coming,” Hill said. “It’s frustrating that we knew it, and told the kids, but they didn’t do what they were told. Credit to Wayne for making the shot when they had to.”
The Blue Devils had still had a chance, and Zarion Griffin took the ball the length of the court and got off an uncontested 18 footer, but the ball bounce high off the rim and the buzzer sounded, as the Yellow Jacket players rushed the court.
“We didn’t do much right, but still had a chance,” Hill said. “ It’s tough to lose one like this especially at home. I hope we can bounce back Friday.”
The Blue Devils were severely outrebounded, shot the ball pretty poorly from the field, and the free throw line, but still managed to lead for most of the game.
The Blue Devils trailed 24-22 at the half, but came back quickly in the third quarter to regain the lead. Griffin hit a three pointer, and started taking the ball to the basket, scoring nine of his team high 19 points in the third as Statesboro opened up a 40-39 lead at the end of the third.
In the fourth Statesboro missed the front end of three different one-and-one free throw opportunities. A Devin Mikell layup gave Statesboro a 51-48 lead with 1:05 left in the game, but Grant hit a long three from the elbow to tie the game at 51-51.
With less than 20 seconds remaining Mikell got a rebound and a putback to extend the Blue Devil lead to 53-51. That would set the stage for Grant’s last second heroics, and sent the Blue Devils into a tough situation in their region title hopes.
“We just have to try and close things out with a couple of wins,” Hill said. “There are still a couple of games left and everyone is bunched up, so anything is possible.”
Statesboro was led by Griffin with 19 , while Mikell added 10 points. Wayne County was led by Grant with 14 points.
Up next Statesboro plays at Ware County Friday, and then wraps up the regular season at South Effingham next Tuesday.