In a game that saw seven players reach double digits in scoring, it was defense that finally prevailed.
Protecting a slim lead throughout the fourth quarter, Statesboro locked down on defense and forced Swainsboro into shooting just 3-for-15 from the floor over the final eight minutes to secure a 72-64 win Saturday night in the Devil’s Den.
“I was a little bit upset with our defense in the first half,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “I wanted us to focus more on that end. We were able to deny the penetration and keep them from getting any offensive rebounds at the end.”
Offensively, senior guard JaQawn Raymond led the way for Statesboro (4-0) with 22 points.
While Raymond led all scorers, he also got a lot of help from his teammates. Brickeye Hendley (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Jonathan Taylor (10 points, 10 rebounds) each recorded a double-double and Edwin Harvey (18 points) hit four times from beyond the arc.
“We had a lot of balance tonight,” said Hill. “(Swainsboro) tried to play a box-and-one on Raymond, but we showed them that we can create offense with a lot of different guys.”
Early on, it looked like the Tigers might pull away.
A heavy press forced several Blue Devil turnovers as Swainsboro built a 20-11 first quarter lead, but a thunderous two-handed dunk by Raymond at the first quarter buzzer shifted the momentum.
Statesboro clawed its way to a 30-29 lead on five consecutive free throws by Harvey, Raymond and Hendley, and the teams traded baskets until the Devils took a 42-38 lead into halftime.
Swainsboro managed to pull even at 47-47 with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter, but Harvey drilled a 3 on Statesboro’s next possession and the Devils never looked back.
The Devils return to action next week as they head up north to take on Northside, Warner Robins.
Lady Devils 65, Lady Tigers 27
The Statesboro girls kept right on rolling Saturday evening as they crushed Swainsboro by a count of 65-27 at the Devils Den.
Junioir forward Alisia Jenkins led the way for the Lady Blue Devils (4-0) as she racked up 24 points and 12 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.
“Everything was running really smoothly,” said Jenkins. “I was trying to work on my post moves. We kept getting open looks to me in the post and a lot of the shots were just falling.”
As they have done all season, the Devils ramped up the defensive pressure, forced many turnovers and wore down their opponent with superior depth.
After Swainsboro scored the first four points of the game, Statesboro exploded on a 22-1 run and had the game all but sealed away after building a 34-11 lead at halftime.
“We’re really coming together,” said Jenkins. “We played together a lot last season, so we’re just picking up where we left off.”
One newcomer that is contributing is Shanika Buie. The freshman chipped in with 10 points and 5 rebounds and has added depth to Statesboro’s already loaded front line.
“We’ve had our eye on her since the sixth grade,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “She’s learning a lot playing behind Jenkins and Sierra (Kirkland), and we’re confident that she’ll be a big leader for us down the road.”
Leading 34-11 at halftime, the Devils kept laying it on.
Statesboro built a 56-20 lead heading into the final quarter and the mercy clock was set in motion as the Devils emptied their bench and ran out the clock.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.