GUYTON — The last thing Statesboro Coach Lee Hill wanted was a track meet, but that was what he got much to his chagrin.
“We can’t let it become an up and down game,” Hill said prior to Thursday night’s Region 3-AAAAA tournament game with Coffee County. “They’re very athletic, and they’ve got a real good shooter.
“We’re not good enough to keep up with them. We’ve got to figure out a way to slow them down.”
The Blue Devils didn’t get run out of the Effingham County High School gym, but they had lapses against the more up tempo Trojans, and it cost them dearly as they dropped a 74-66 decision to Coffee County.
As to the shooter? Well, he had a good night, too.
Tyree Paulk, who played quarterback on the Coffee County football team, poured in a game high 33 points including five three-pointers to lead the Trojans into Friday night’s championship game against regular season region champion Brunswick.
Brunswick beat Camden County, 63-57, Thursday afternoon and will play the Trojans at 8 p.m. Friday. The Blue Devils will take on Camden in the consolation game at 5 p.m. All games are at Effingham County High School.
Michael Salomon scored 22 points for Statesboro while Myles White had 19 and Jaylan Patrick added 11. However, that was not enough to offset Paulk’s outstanding night and the Trojans also got 16 points from Ken Walker.
Paulk, who entered the contest averaging 15.7 points per game, scored 20 in the first half as he helped Coffee County to a 36-31 lead at the break.
Hill had good reason to believe his team was in the thick of it as the Blue Devils had closed an eight-point deficit to 34-31 before Paulk drove the baseline to score with three seconds on the clock.
Those hopes and dreams came to a crushing end in in the opening minutes of the third quarter as Coffee started the second half on a 13-5 run, and the Blue Devils never recovered.
“They came out trapping us at the start of the half, and we made some turnovers,” Hill said. “It was uphill from there.
“We’re a young team, and it showed tonight. They kept switching defenses, and we didn’t adjust real well. We held him (Paulk) in check in the regular season game (64-63 overtime loss), but we never got out on him tonight.”
Statesboro trailed by six, 65-59, with 2:10 to play, but that was as close as it was to get as the Trojans went on a 6-1 tear in the next minute to seal the deal.