One month ago, Statesboro barely slipped past Lakeside, Evans on the road. Friday night in Statesboro, things weren’t nearly as dramatic.
The Blue Devils outscored the Panthers 17-6 in the first half and never trailed as they rolled to a 53-42 victory.
With the win, the Devils clinched the No. 2 seed out of their sub-region heading into next week’s Region 2-AAAA tournament. Statesboro was tied with Greenbrier for the slot heading into Friday night, but the win, combined with Greenbrier’s loss to Effingham County, vaulted the Devils in front.
“That’s huge for us,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “Not only does getting the 2-seed give us a few extra days off, but now we only have to win one game to make it to the state playoffs instead of two.”
Senior guard Jaqawn Raymond made the most of his final regular season home game. Raymond scored 24 points and nailed a 35-footer at the first quarter buzzer to send the Devils on their way and put an exclamation point on his Senior Night.
Fellow senior Jonathan Taylor scored nine points as the Devils’ second leading scorer.
After the impressive opening eight minutes, Statesboro opened the game up more in the second quarter.
Both teams struggled early in the period, but easy buckets by Raymond, Michael Summers and Taylor highlighted a 12-2 run that put the Devils on top 31-16 at halftime.
A 3-pointer from A.J. Bennett — who led his team with 18 points — pulled Lakeside within 33-24 early in the third quarter, but Raymond drove through three defenders for an acrobatic layup to stop the Panther charge and key a 12-5 SHS run that lasted through the first minute of the fourth quarter and gave the Devils a permanently comfortable lead.
“I was very impressed with Jaqawn,” said Hill. “He had a great game for us, but he didn’t press too much. He let the game come to him and he made some big plays to get things going in our favor.”
Statesboro now has almost a full week to prepare for the postseason. Next Thursday, the Devils travel to South Effingham to take on either South Effingham or Liberty County.
Lady Devils 57, Lady Panthers 33
With the Region 2B-AAAA No. 1 seed already locked up, Statesboro went for style points.
The Lady Blue Devils capped off a regular season in which they were unbeaten on their home floor with a 57-33 victory over Lakeside, Evans Friday evening.
Star forward Alisia Jenkins sat out her third consecutive game with a broken nose, but her partner in the paint Sierra Kirkland picked up the slack, scoring 14 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
Playing in her final regular season home game at the Devil’s Den, senior Raven Thomas hit an 18-footer midway through the second quarter to push the SHS lead to 23-12.
Fellow senior Veljulisa Canty finished the night with two points and three assists.
The Blue Devil advantage continued to rise as their defense held Lakeside to just four points in the period. The Panthers were held scoreless over the final 3:43 of the first half and SHS took a 31-14 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, Shaniwka Bouie – who was the beneficiary of Jenkins’ missed minutes – started to make her presence known.
The freshman forward scored seven of her 14 points and recorded three offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone as the Devils continued to roll.
Statesboro led 45-21 heading into the game’s final eight minutes and easily ran down the clock to finish off Lakeside.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.