Two straight seasons have seen the Statesboro girls basketball squad get eliminated in the Elite Eight of the GHSA state playoffs. This season, a solid core of seniors is back for a final run and everyone involved is determined to go even farther.
There is no question that the six Lady Blue Devils entering their final season with the team are the heart and soul of what has become one of the most feared teams in the state. As freshmen, they found a way to compete against older competition and notched a playoff spot.
Since the end of their first season, Statesboro has compiled a 52-8 record and has dropped just one Region 2-AAAA game. Now, with one more shot at a state title, there is a lot of hope that the final step can be taken.
“We played a lot of games against a lot of good teams in the offseason,” SHS coach Jeff Seier said. “The biggest thing that we’ve been working on heading into the season is our focus. We know that we’ve had some success lately, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to lay down for us. We need to expect everyone’s best shot each night.”
All too often in the last couple of seasons, a team’s best shot has been no match for the Lady Blue Devils — a trend that figures to continue.
The Devils are led by senior forwards Alisia Jenkins and Sierra Kirkland. Both figure to be in the running for All-State honors this season and their height — both are 6-foot-1 — combined with their ability to run the floor and shoot from outside make them a matchup nightmare for most teams.
Those two can dominate many games by themselves, but they are far from the only threats that Statesboro can boast.
Shanqwa Buie got her feet wet in her freshman season last year and possesses many of the traits of Jenkins and Kirkland in the frontcourt.
“We were impressed by Buie last season,” Seier said. “With those three, we can definitely run out a big team, but we also want to keep our rotation in order. There might be some times where all three are on the court and I imagine that we’ll have a good advantage when that happens.”
Looking into the backcourt, the talent keeps on coming.
Senior Shanice Walker has been a fixture in the lineup the last two years and is a battle-tested leader when it comes to running the Statesboro attack. Juniors Ricajanay Williams and Kyera Whittaker shot well from the outside last season and will be counted on to do the same in 2011-12.
The Lady Devils had a setback in a scrimmage Saturday in Augusta. Going up against Dutch Fork out of South Carolina, the Devils went down 51-45. Still, Seier liked a lot of what he saw and thinks it will help in the long run.
“We were a little nervous at first,” Seier said. “There were some big-time schools with coaches in attendance and I think we were a little timid.
"When we got our feet under us, we played well. That’s what we need to do this season. We’re going to get every team’s best shot, but if we can execute, I like our chances.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.