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Local basketball teams tip off season with stellar starts
Prep Basketball
Statesboro High girls basketball coach Marty Holder, center, and the bench hope some body english helps a 3-point shot during a Dec. 8 game against Effingham County.

Home proved sweet home for area high school basketball teams as the Statesboro Blue Devils and Bulloch Academy Gators opened their home seasons with sweeps.

For Statesboro, it was a pair of lopsided wins as the boys improved to 3-0 with a 69-49 win over Effingham County, while the Lady Devils continued to pile drive their opponents with a 91-12 win over the Rebels as they improved to 4-0. 

The Lady Devils were beating their opponents by around 50 points per game, and actually turned it up a notch on Tuesday. The Blue Devil pressure defense only allowed the Rebels across half court a handful of times in the first quarter as they opened up a 33-2 lead, and never looked back.

“We have gotten off to some slow starts in our first few games, but I told the girls to start off with intensity tonight,” said SHS coach Marty Holder. “They really responded, and showed what we can do if we play from start to finish the way we can.

The Devils had a balanced attack led by Madison Lee with 15 points, Terrika Gibson with 14, and three other players in double figures. The Devils' depth is evident in the fact that Holder brings in five players off the bench as substitutes.

“We base who starts on who does the best and works the hardest in practice,” said Holder. “Some of our players will probably suffer as far as their individual stats go because of that, but the good thing is our team doesn’t care about those things, we are just worrying about winning.”

As for the Statesboro boys, they played their first home game without Lee Hill on the sidelines since 1978. Hill passed away in August, and Tuesday was an emotional win for first year head coach Keith Legree. LeGree, who helped lead the Blue Devils to the 1991 state championship said afterwards he felt Coach Hill’s presence during the Blue Devils 69-49 win over Effingham.

“I think about him every day,” said LeGree. “I definitely felt him out there with us tonight. I appreciate his family for coming out and showing their support, and I know it was tough for them as well.”

As for the game on the court, the Blue Devils and Rebels battled back and forth for most of the game. With the Blue Devils up 44-41 late in the third, Statesboro went on a 16-2 run to put things away. The Blue Devils were led by Willie Ballard with 18 points, while Tim Taylor chipped in with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

“I felt like Tim and Willie really played well tonight,” said LeGree “A lot of our guys didn’t play a lot of minutes on the varsity last year, and they are just getting used to playing big minutes. I’m proud of how we were able to put them away with that run late in the third quarter, and hopefully we can continue to play that way for a whole game.”

The Blue Devils will be at Bradwell on Friday.

The Bulloch Academy Gators had to overcome deficits in order to pull out a pair of wins Tuesday night against Westminster.

The Lady Gators trailed 30-14 before outsourcing Westminster 27-3 the rest of the way in winning 41-33, and improving to 1-1 on the season. Ashantay Noble led the comeback finishing with 19 points, while senior Leah Williford added 10.

“We are going to have to win with defense this year,” said Coach Chandler Dennard. “To completely shut them out in the fourth quarter was more than I expected. They played tough on defense and they got rewarded for it. We created some mismatches for Ashantay and she took advantage of it helping to lead us to the win.”

For the boys, newcomer Ryan Swanson has already made an impact. Swanson scored 11, but none bigger than his 3-pointer with less than 40 seconds left that proved to be the margin of victory in the Gators' 52-51 win.

“After a slow start we finally started hitting shots,” said Coach Chance Cofield. “Ryan came up big with that three pointer. Rodney Hill had 18 points to help us as well. Hopefully we can come out a little stronger in our next game.”

Next up for the Gators is a trip to Robert Toombs Thursday.

The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets lost a pair of region games Tuesday on the road against Windsor Forest. For the guys it was an uphill battle in which they didn’t help themselves against the No. 2 ranked team in the state. The Jackets fell behind by 10 early, and despite playing with the Knights the rest of the way they fell 75-64. The Jackets were led by Tyler Griffin with 22 points while A.J. Williams and Ryan Reed both had 14 points.

The Lady Jackets dropped a pair of games this week as they lost to Windsor Forest 32-24 on Tuesday, and then turned around Wednesday and lost to Wayne County 35-18.

SEB will host Portal Saturday with the girls' game starting at 6 p.m.