Seven U.S. presidents, six Georgia Southern football championships and seven different iPhones have come and gone since Lee Hill took his post as Statesboro’s head basketball coach.
The only thing as consistent as Hill’s presence in Statesboro’s hallways has been his team’s winning consistency on the basketball court. And it all came to a culmination Wednesday night when his Blue Devils beat Glenn Hills 73-66.
However this wasn’t any ordinary win. It wasn’t just that Statesboro ran through the Gentleman’s Classic undefeated, it wasn’t just that it was a game that came down to the final minute or that the win brought Statesboro back to .500 after an injury riddled season.
This win marked the 800th in the career of Lee Hill. Hill was already the winningest active coach in the state of Georgia, but now he enters a space only occupied by very few men.
“It still hasn’t hit me really,” Hill said. “It’s hard to think it’ll happen in a game this tonight.”
The game happened a day after his name was dedicated on Statesboro’s hardwood floors — an honor usually reserved post mostly for those who receive it. However Hill had the distinguished honor of having it done at just 65 years young with a lot more left in the tank.
“I’m just ready to get this season going,” Hill said. “We’re finally at full strength and we’re playing our best basketball right now.”
The game itself didn’t match the splendor of the 800th win celebration. 48 fouls were registered to both teams, 30 to Glenn Hills in what some would call a questionably officiated game.
Starting in the third quarter, a Glenn Hills assistant coach yelled at a referee “they’re pushing off!” in reference to Statesboro players creating separation with their forearms while dribbling down the court.
The assistant was hit with what would be one of four technical fouls called in the game. Five minutes later Glenn Hill’s Eric Farmer was hit with a tech after shouting in displeasure about a foul called on him.
“With the coaches chirping back and forth like that it made for a bad game,” Hill said. “I hate it, but both teams were hit with fouls and I wish the refs would had just let us play.”
This lead to a double technical on Statesboro’s Trayveon Burns and CJ Bowers when Bowers lowered his shoulder into Burns while walking by him. The fouls cast a dark cloud over a game with 11 lead changes and a deficit as small as one with less than a minute and a half left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by as many as nine in the final quarter, Glenn Hills hit a 20-12 run from the 5:34 mark to the 1:11 mark to make it 67-66 off a key lay-up by Bowers. Needing to foul, Glenn wrapped up Jordan Wright — fresh off a 12-of-13 performance at the line the night before — who sank both free throws to make it 69-66.
“I was proud of the way they composed themselves tonight,” Hill said. “Those players were talking back and forth so I said ‘just keep playing the game and you’ll be fine.’”
After executing a key stop on the other end, Cameron Harvey would make four free throws down the stretch to seal his coaches 800th win.
Harvey would lead the way with 23 points and 10 boards while Wright notched his third game in a row of scoring 20 or more points with 22 Wednesday night,
Statesboro (6-6) will head cross-county to Brooklet on Tuesday to face Southeast Bulloch (3-8) at 7:30 p.m.
Chris Stanley may be reached at (912) 489-9408.