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Lady Devils claim Third Place at Gamecock Invitational
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    SYLVANIA — Monnette Bennett had a game-high 21 points and the Lady Blue Devils of Statesboro used an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter, putting away Jenkins County 52-35 Friday night in the consolation game of the Gamecock Holiday Invitational Classic.
    Both teams struggled offensively in the contest and combined for 63 turnovers before the final whistle sounded.
    “We were exhausted,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Seier. “A couple of the girls were just flat out exhausted from last night (a 49-41 loss to Southwest Macon). We’ve been off for so long and they played really hard last night. We were just a half-count late on intercepting the ball all night long with some weary legs.”
    Jenkins County cut Statesboro’s 10-point lead to 37-29 at the 7:41 mark of the fourth quarter with a Cortine Earls jumper.  It would be as close as the Lady Eagles would get, as SHS reeled off 11 straight points to end any thoughts off an upset. The Devils biggest lead reached 19 at 48-29 with just under five minutes to go and JCHS was held scoreless for 4:46 during the stretch.
    Turnovers plagued the Lady Eagles in the midst of that run and all night long. Eight of the Lady Eagles’ 34 turnovers came during the fourth quarter
    “That’s been the story of our season so far,” said JCHS head coach Randy Cooper. “Just too many turnovers and inexperience. We’re still trying to address the issue.”
    Statesboro pushed their cushion to 33-19 in the third quarter before Jenkins made a run at the end of the period. McClain had six of her team-leading 11 points during the quarter, but it wasn’t enough.
    Statesboro held a 23-15 advantage at halftime, just after Jalise Smith’s steal and 3-point play brought the Eagles to within five at 20-15. Bennett was the only answer for SHS in the first half, scoring 14 of her 21 during that time and eight in the second quarter.
    “To Jenkins credit, they certainly were a little better than what we gave them credit for,” said Seier. “We had a different group of kids playing the first part of the game and we were intentionally not pressing so we could work on our offense. We kind of let them stay in the game, but Jenkins played a pretty good game. Good for them.”
    Both teams struggled to find any consistent form of offense over the course of 48 minutes. The two sides turned the ball over 18 times each in the first half and Jenkins County went an average of 2:20 between scores in the first half.
    The Lady Eagles led 2-0 before a 7-0 Statesboro run to start the game. Jenkins then pulled to within 7-6, but back-to-back jumpers from Bennett gave the Devils an 11-6 lead after one.
    Jenkins County returns to the court Friday, Jan. 5 when they travel to Portal. The Lady Devils will be in action that same to day, hosting Greenbrier.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9404