It was close early, but a torrid Statesboro run bookended the halftime break as the Blue Devils ran away with a 67-26 victory over Southeast Bulloch Tuesday night at the Devil’s Den.
Statesboro outscored the Yellow Jackets by a 44-12 margin in the second half and Zaquavian Smith led all scorers with 15 points as the Devils swept the season series with SEB.
“Overall, I was pleased tonight,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “Our offense took a little while to click, but our defense looked sharp after having the last week off and created some points for us.”
The Jackets hung tough over the first quarter and a half, but the Devils turned up the pressure late in the second quarter and three SEB turnovers led to a 7-0 Devil run that gave SHS a 23-14 lead at the break.
Things went from bad to worse for SEB in the second half.
Utilizing a relentless man-to-man defense, Statesboro locked down on the Jackets and prevented them from driving towards the basket.
The Devils forced four early turnovers in the third quarter and built on the run they had started before the break. SHS scored the first 13 points of the second half — good for a 20-0 run overall — and it had built a dominating 36-14 lead before Drew Ware’s layup opened the Jackets’ second half scoring.
“Once we switched to man defense, we took advantage,” said Hill. “We got in the passing lanes and got points off of turnovers. That built the lead and allowed our offense to settle down and start producing.”
Southeast Bulloch gained the game’s first advantage early.
The Jackets played a tough zone and denied the Devils any inside buckets.
Statesboro countered with a zone scheme of its own, but SEB was patient and worked the ball around to find a handful of easy jumpers for an early 6-2 advantage.
The Devils quickly bounced back into the lead on free throws by Reggie Owens and a three-point play by Edwin Harvey, but SEB hung tough to tie the contest at 12-12 on a pair of Josh Suchovsky free throws.
But Statesboro finally broke through the SEB defenses and a thunderous one-handed dunk from Jaqawn Raymond put SHS ahead for good late in the second quarter and set the game’s decisive run in motion.
Statesboro now looks ahead to the beginning of Region 2-AAAA play. The Devils open their region schedule Saturday as they travel to South Effingham for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
Lady Blue Devils 60, Lady Yellow Jackets 8
The Statesboro girls came out of their holiday break in top form, crushing Southeast Bulloch by a count of 60-8 Tuesday night.
The Lady Blue Devils scored the game’s first 31 points and the SHS reserves saw plenty of playing time as they ran away with the victory.
“I was glad to see us get a win without a point guard (Ericka McDade has been lost for the season with a torn ACL),” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “Veljulisa (Canty) did a good job tonight and we’ll need her and Shanice (Walker) to step it up as the season goes along.”
Statesboro’s dual-threat combination of Alisia Jenkins and Sierra Kirkland at forward showcased their dominance as Jenkins led all scorers with 20 points and Kirkland dropped 18 more, with much of the damage coming in the Devils’ impressive first half run.
Jenkins’ 14 points in the opening two quarters paced the Lady Devils and short jumpers by Nira Byrd and Crystal Mikell were all the scoring the Lady Yellow Jackets got as Statesboro took a 36-4 lead into halftime.
With the reserves playing out much of the final quarters, not much changed.
Statesboro began the second half on a 12-2 run and continued to deny the SEB offense as the Devils easily wound down the clock.
Now, Statesboro looks ahead to the Region 2-AAAA schedule that begins this weekend and in which the Devils will try to defend their 2009-10 title.
“We just need to concentrate on not having any slip-ups,” said Seier. “We think that we can be the best team in the region and we want to go back to the state playoffs. We just have to make it happen.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.