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ECI Christmas Tournament tips-off today
Statesboro, Portal, Metter travel to Twin City for holiday competition
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    Five area teams will begin play in the Emanuel County Institute Christmas Tournament today. The boys of Statesboro and both the girls and boys of Metter and Portal will tip-off a three-day competition in a round-robin format looking to work out all the extra kinks before the heart of region play begins in January.
    “We want to see if we’re any better than what we’ve played,” said Statesboro head coach Lee Hill. “We also want to play a lot of guys. We’ve been playing a lot (already) but we want to look at some things before we go into the region play.”
    The Blue Devils (4-5) will be without Justin Houston and DeAngelo Tyson when they face host ECI tonight at 8 p.m. Both players are out-of-town.
    “We haven’t put our main offense in yet,” added Hill. “We need to get our tempo a little higher and we have to press a lot more. I think the team was a little out of shape, and we had been missing some of our football guys. Now I think we have more of a team to press and be up-tempo a little more.”
    The 8-1 boys of Portal will look to continue their good play when they face East Laurens today at 3:30 p.m. Head coach Jeff Brannen related the three-day festivities to the region tournament.
    “You play three games back-to-back-to-back,” said Brannen. “So we’re trying to look for some depth. We’re going to play some people that normally haven’t gotten some minutes.”
    While the Panthers will work on depth issues, Brannen said PHS will also try to continue to do what’s already worked so far this season, playing an up-tempo game and pushing the ball on the offensive end while playing a man-defense. The Panthers haven’t played since Dec.16 when they beat region foe Savannah Country Day.
    Metter opens today against Treutlen County at 6:30 p.m. The Tigers (3-4) are also using the tournament to gauge themselves rather than the competition.
    “We’re just trying to get better,” said Brian Hall, head coach for MHS. “Trying to get ready for region. We’ve got a lot of young kids and we’re running a new system that they’re still trying to learn.”
    Karonja Knight is averaging a double-double for the Tigers (12 rebounds and 11.6 points) and Justin Johnson is putting in 11.1 points a game. But the Tigers haven’t played since Dec. 16.
    “We’re looking forward to getting back on the court, it’s been awhile since we played,” said Hall. “We had several that were sick and tried to play through that (Dec. 16) game (a 44-35 win over Richmond Hill) and I think that may have set them back a little. You always lose a little bit of your conditioning when you take some time off at Christmas so we may have to go a little bit deeper in our bench and get some kids some playing time that haven’t played a lot. Hopefully that’ll help us get some depth established.”
    Both the Lady Tigers of Metter (3-4) and the Lady Panthers of Portal (1-8) will also be in action today, with MHS squaring off against Treutlen County at 5 p.m. and Portal facing East Laurens at 2 p.m.
    For the Lady Tigers, coach Duane Davis said he’s trying to cut down on numbers and find a good core of girls he can consistently go to.
    “We’re still looking to improve the way we have been over the last couple of games,” said Davis. “We’re starting to improve and I think the girls are starting to understand what we do and what we’ve been trying to get them to do.”
    The Lady Tigers must improve their shooting efforts and cut down on turnovers if their going to have a good showing during the tournament. Davis also said that playing against a tough tournament field with help his girls when it comes time to start a very tough region 3-AA schedule.
    The Lady Panthers have lost eight of their first nine, but half of those losses came against schools of a higher classification.
    Coach Earl Donaldson’s girls haven’t played since a Dec. 16 setback and will face two more AA schools in this week’s tournament.
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9404.                  


2006 Emanuel County Institute Tournament                                                                                                                                             
2 p.m.

    Portal Lady Panthers vs. East Laurens Lady Falcons
3:30 p.m.
    Portal vs. East Laurens
5 p.m.
    Metter Lady Tigers vs. Treutlen County Lady Vikings
6:30 p.m.
    Metter vs. Treutlen County
8 p.m.
    Statesboro vs. ECI

1 p.m.

    Portal Lady Panthers vs. Treutlen County Lady Vikings
2:30 p.m.
    Portal vs. Treutlen County
4 p.m.
    East Laurens Lady Falcons vs. Swainsboro Lady Tigers
5:30 p.m.
    East Laurens vs. Statesboro
7 p.m.
    ECI Lady Bulldogs vs. Metter Lady Tigers
8:30 p.m.
    Metter vs. ECI

1 p.m.

    Portal Lady Panthers vs. Metter Lady Tigers
2:30 p.m.
    Portal vs. Metter
4 p.m.
    Swainsboro Lady Tigers vs. Treutlen County Lady Vikings
5:30 p.m.
    Statesboro vs. Treutlen County
7 p.m.
    East Laurens Lady Falcons vs. ECI Lady Bulldogs
8:30 p.m.
    East Laurens vs. ECI