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Devils win big
011108 SHS HOOPS 1
Statesboro High's Mario Jackson, 13, splits Richmond Academy defenders Brandon Rushen, left, and Donavan Stone for a score in the third quarter Friday night. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Few Statesboro fans saw this one coming.
    After a heartbreaking, emotional loss to Portal on Tuesday, Statesboro was looking straight into the face of the Academy of Richmond County Friday night at home — the defending Region 3-AAAA champ.
    Thirty-two minutes later, the Blue Devils had torn through the Musketeers in shocking style, outscoring ARC 21-3 in the third and running away with a 74-49 win.
    “We had to come out here and step it up and show people we still got it,” said Statesboro forward Eric Ferguson, who led all scorers with 24.
    Statesboro led just 33-27 at the break but slowly and methodically continued to increase its lead on a night the Musketeers (11-6, 2-1 Region 3A-AAAA) will soon want to forget.
    Ferguson increased the lead to 40-27 on a 3-point play, followed by sophomore Xavier Tolliver’s jumper from the right baseline and a Tolliver 3 from the left corner after that.
    Mario Jackson then grabbed one of his seven steals and put in a layup to push the lead to 20, and Edwin Harvey’s 3 off the bench made it 52-27. Suddenly the Blue Devils (7-8, 2-0 Region 3B-AAAA) were up 25 and making ARC their proverbial video-game opponent.
    After Harvey’s 3, the Devils escaped with another steal and Harvey sprinted down the court, only to lob the ball off the glass for a trailing Ferguson, who sent it home with a two-handed stuff. It was Statesboro’s largest lead at 27 points.
    “We just talked about being more patient and playing tougher defense (at halftime),” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “We wanted to get into a position where we could relax. I reminded them that this is a region game. We’ve been through a lot, but the one thing that counts is the region games.”
    The Musketeers didn’t score until there were 18.9 seconds to go in the third period. Corey Bynes, ARC’s only offensive answer on the night with 20 points, hit a pair of free throws to keep the Academy from going scoreless. Richmond was 0-of-10 from the field in the quarter.
    Richmond Academy continued to fight through the fourth, pulling to within 14 on two separate occasions. Freshman Christian Nobles hit a 3 from the top of the key to pull ARC within 55-41 with five minutes to go. Bynes converted a 3-point play with 3 1/2 left to make it 58-44, but that’s as close as the Musketeers got.
    “The rest of the region — they gunning for us,” said Ferguson. “All the Augusta teams are going to show our plays, tell each other and talk about us. We just got to go out here and play hard every time.”
    Richmond Academy jumped out to 9-3 lead in front of a near-capacity crowd, and SHS looked like it might have a bit of a hangover from the Portal loss. Trailing 13-6, its biggest deficit, Statesboro climbed back with a Ferguson dunk  and a Jackson steal and one-handed slam to close the gap to three.
    Brandon Rushen picked up three fouls in the first quarter for ARC with 59 seconds left. Soon after Ferguson hit a fall-away 3 from the corner to give the Devils an 18-17 lead after one. The Musketeers only lead one more time the rest of the way.
    Jackson had 18 points and Theo Rich added nine, while Rashad Lee pulled down eight boards for SHS. Nobles added 12 for ARC.
Lady Blue Devils 50, Lady Musketeers 27
    The Statesboro Lady Blue Devils rolled to their second straight 20-plus point win with a 50-27 victory over the Academy of Richmond County Friday.
    Monnette Bennett had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Victoria Mikell added 13 and SHS (12-3, 1-1 Region 3-AAAA) drew even in region play.
    “We expected a tough game tonight,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “But they weren’t able to respond without their post player. But’s it’s a victory and we’ll take it.”
    Richmond’s Kaylyn Small was out of the game with a sprained ankle, and once ARC (10-8, 1-2 Region 3-AAAA) got down, they found it hard to come back.
    The Devils held a 13-9 lead after one thanks in large part to Tiffany Lee. With forward Gwen Jones on the bench with two fouls, Lee put up six points and kept SHS scoring while Bennett and Mikell struggled to find their shot.
    Statesboro switched to a zone defense in the second and found itself up 22-12 in a 13-second span.
    On a Bennett jumper from the elbow, ARC was called for an off-the-ball foul under the basket. The score counted and SHS got the ball back. Mikell took the inbound on the left wing, split the defense and banked home a lay-in, drawing the foul and converting the 3-point play.
    Statesboro opened the second half with a 6-0 run and ARC began to play careless and complacent. The Lady Musketeers turned the ball over 27 times and scored just nine points in the second half.
    “We shouldn’t have dropped that game at Greenbrier (Jan. 4),” said Bennett. “But since we did, we gotta go out and get everybody that we can. We just had it in our mind that tonight we needed to do whatever it took to win, and we did that.”
    Statesboro continues region play at home on Tuesday, welcoming Lakeside at 5 p.m.
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.