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Devils win one with heart
010208 SHS HOOPS 1
Statesboro's Eric Ferguson, right, gets the edge on Griffin's Tank Session and earns a trip to the foul line where he sank two of his game high 28 points during the Blue Devils' 67-58 victory Wednesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Statesboro's winter break hadn't been anything to brag about up until Wednesday night.
    The Blue Devils went 1-3 over the past two weeks, lost six players from the team stemming from rules violations and were now looking across the court at a team who has already beaten them once this season, and knocked them out of the state tournament a year ago.
    But SHS showed a little heart when faced with adveristy, stealing a 67-58 come-from-behind win over Griffin.
    "We had to get in the go," said senior Eric Ferguson, who put on a show and led all scorers with 28. "We lost a couple of players, so I just came out here and tried to show leadership. These boys they played hard."
    Paul Herrington, Diego Prince, Antonio Owens, Roquelle Gamble, Willie Shelton and Patrick Parker are no longer with the Devils, who improved to 5-6 on the year.    
    Thus, coach Lee Hill had just 11 kids dressed out. Some newcomers stepped up in big ways.
    Statesboro trailed 45-39 in the third quarter, the Bears' largest lead of the night. With Ferguson picking up his fourth foul at the 2:25 mark, the situation was dire for a young and inexperienced group of Devils on the floor.
    But Xavier Tolliver's turnaround three off the glass at the buzzer at the end of the third seemed to give SHS some life, making the score 45-44 Griffin.
    Two minutes into the final frame, Lamar Lundy hit three of his five points to give Statesboro a lead they would never relinquish at 49-47. With Ferguson back in the game and point guard Mario Jackson playing like a man possessed, the Devils sank their free throws and eventually put Griffin to bed.
    "I had to play a lot of young guys and they stepped up and did a great job," said Hill. "(JaQuan) Raymond came in as a freshman and hit some big threes. Lundy, Tolliver, all those guys played real big for me tonight. Theo (Rich), just a tenth grader, I thought he played well, too."
    Griffin led 17-14 after one in a game against two teams who have played five times in under a year. The Bears beat Statesboro 54-53 on Dec. 21 in Griffin and the two teams played twice during the regular season last year.
    The second quarter was one of runs as Raymond's back-to-back 3s gave SHS a 23-17 lead and sparked a 16-2 Blue Devil spurt. Ferguson was sinking everything he threw up, and what he didn't make he crashed the lane to get his own rebound and put it back. Jackson played just as inspired, tearing down rebounds and causing turnovers with quick hands and shifty feet.
    "We knew we had to step it up and winbecause we hadn't been playing so good," said Jackson, who played almost the entire game. “I'm not tired. I just came out here and did it for the team."
    Griffin didn't exactly fold once Statesboro began to click in the second quarter. GHS (4-8) responded with a 15-4 run at the end of the half, capped by Buck Hancock's running three at the buzzer to tie the game at 34.
    Shaq Barber led Griffin with 17 points, as Calvin Sinkfield saw eight different players on his squad score. Turnovers, however, doomed GHS. The Bears threw the ball away 22 times while Statesboro had just 12 miscues.
    "(This) is how we're going to have to play," added Hill. "We're going to have to scrap — we're going to have to play smart. I thought we played smart tonight. We were patient on offense, we changed up the defense when we had to and just played scrappy and pulled it out at the end."
    Jackson finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Hancock and Pooh Appling both had eight for Griffin. The Devils were 19 of 28 from the line.
    Statesboro will travel to Greenbrier for a Region 3-AAAA game on Friday. The Lady Blue Devils resume their season at 6:30 p.m. with the boys to play at 8 p.m.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.