Statesboro spent three quarters not being able to hit much of anything that wasn’t a layup.
Three consecutive 3-pointers to begin the fourth quarter made up for all of the Blue Devils’ previous struggles as they claimed a 55-43 victory over Effingham County Tuesday night.
Statesboro (4-2, 2-0 Region 3-AAAAA) let an early 15-4 advantage slip away and trailed through much of the third quarter, but a torrid 23-11 over the final eight minutes dealt the Rebels (5-1, 2-1) their first loss of the season.
“You know, this is such a big win for us,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “A lot of things make this big. Of course it’s a region game, but we also have a rivalry and have had a lot of tough games with Effingham. We’re definitely really happy to get this one.”
Last week, SHS junior guard Jaylan Patrick was the star, scoring late and often in a win over Portal.
Patrick’s next home game provided the Devil faithful with an encore performance. Patrick scored just two points over the first three quarters, but exploded for 14 more — including two of the 3’s that put SHS ahead for good — to lead all scorers.
The rest of the Devils followed Patrick’s lead, playing suffocating defense and building the lead to as much as 16 thanks to points in transition.
Jyron Brinson got the Devils out of their shooting funk with a 3 just seconds into the final period. Once Effingham County was on its heels, athletic play from Deonte Reddick (eight points) and clutch foul shooting from Michael Salomon (10 points) made sure that the Devils’ second big lead wouldn’t slip away.
Statesboro began the game at less-than-full strength due to some injuries in its main rotation. The Devils’ depth took another hit when Cameron Harvey took an elbow to the nose in the third quarter and couldn’t return.
“It’s great to win, and it does a lot for our confidence knowing that we can do it when we don’t have everyone,” Hill said. “
Deshaun Wilkinson led the Rebels with 11 points. It was Wilkinson who gave Effingham its first lead of the night, drilling a deep 3 just before the halftime buzzer to put his team up 23-22 at the break.
Wilkinson again connected from beyond the arc to lengthen the Rebels’ lead in the third quarter. By the time he nailed his third 3-ball, it came as part of a futile comeback attempt.
“I think we had a lot of guys step up,” Hill said. “We were missing a lot of shots, but I don’t think we ever lost our confidence. That’s the kind of attitude we need to have to win region games.”
Lady Rebels 54, Lady Blue Devils 39
Statesboro’s girls have looked much-improved early on this season, but the Lady Devils have dug themselves a hole after dropping their second Region 3-AAAAA game in as many tries.
The Lady Devils (5-4, 0-2) hung tight with Effingham County (6-1, 3-0) early on, but the Lady Rebels dominated down the stretch. The game was knotted at 16-16 in the second period before Effingham took over and cruised to a 54-39 victory.
Keysonna Rollins led Statesboro in scoring, netting 12 points in the losing effort. Rollins joined Tanice Johnson as the only Devils to reach double-digit scoring due in large part to SHS connecting on just four field goals throughout the second half.
“Tonight was one of those nights,” SHS coach Jeff Seier said. “Tanice has been doing a good job of scoring for us, but she had trouble getting it going. It seemed like everyone had trouble making baskets.”
Shots from the field were only slightly more productive early on as the Devils recorded 14 of their total points from the free throw line and never connected from beyond the 3-point arc.
“There are different things at work,” Seier said. “Effingham is a good team and played good defense. And then there are some nights where even good shots don’t fall.”
Scoring was hardly an issue for Effingham as three Lady Rebels topped the 10-point mark.
MaKayla Robinson led the way for the Rebels, notching 16 and hitting on 4-of-6 from the charity stripe.
Robinson keyed the attack, but it was contributions from the entire Effingham squad and a barrage of accurate short-range shooting that closed the first half with a 10-0 Rebels run and set the tone for the rest of the night.
While the loss carries extra weight because of region play, the Devils are still confident in their ability to bounce back.
“Obviously, it would be nice to be 2-0 in region instead of 0-2,” Seier said. “But we have some time. We play a lot of region games and have time to get right back into it if we can play a little bit better.”
Statesboro’s boys and girls will remain in the pre-Christmas portion of their region schedules as both travel to Bradwell Institute Saturday evening.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.