It was far from its prettiest game of the season, but Statesboro got the job done.
Leading by seven points with just over a minute remaining, the Lady Devils looked to have things sewn up, but six straight missed free throws allowed the Rebels to stage a late rally. No. 15’s steal and short jumper with 27.5 seconds to play brought Effingham within 35-34, but SHS notched a quick bucket and Mackayla Raymonville’s last-second 3-pointer bounced off the rim to give the Devils a slim 37-34 victory Friday evening.
“We looked pretty good early,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “But we started missing too many shots and Effingham slowed the game down. (Effingham) definitely gave us a good fight.”
Alisia Jenkins led Statesboro with 18 points and 12 rebounds in yet another double-double performance, but the Rebels gave Jenkins and company headaches throughout the night.
As many teams have done this season, Effingham tried to counter the constant threat of Statesboro’s quick-strike offense by slowing down the pace.
Many of the Rebels’ possessions took more than 30 seconds off of the game clock, but the Devils’ defense waited patiently, letting Effingham kill the clock, but never allowing the ball inside of the perimeter for easy shots. Statesboro was able to stifle the Rebels early, but couldn’t pull away as the Devils missed on nine shots from inside the paint.
The missed shots prevented Statesboro from setting up its suffocating press. The Devils have pulled away in many games this season thanks to easy points off of turnovers as opponents try to advance up the court, but that was never the case Friday.
“That was definitely more half-court defense than we’ve had to play most of the year,” said Seier. “Letting Effingham get into their offensive sets just allowed them to run more plays and take up even more time.”
Effingham was able to claw within 17-11 when Taylor Hall banked in a 3 and Maddie Evans connected on two free throws just before halftime, and Suzannah Stone – who led the Rebels with 14 points - followed up a 3-pointer with a baseline jumper to close it to 17-16 early in the second half.
Soon after, the Devils finally awoke, rattling off a 6-0 run to seize control again. Leading 29-24 with just over six minutes to play, the Devils rattled off another six consecutive points to build what seemed like a comfortable lead.
But Effingham just kept coming.
Forced to foul as the clock wore down, Effingham sent three different SHS players to the line – none of them coming up with the game clinching free throws.
After each failed trip, the Rebels converted on their end of the floor, but after Raybonville’s bucket, the Devils were able to power down the court and find Sierra Kirkland, who finally put away the inside shot that had eluded the Devils all night.
“We’ve been hitting our free throws lately, so I thought we were in good shape,” said Seier. “Things like that happen though. You aren’t going to hit them every night. I’m just glad that we got the win.”
Effingham County 58, Statesboro 49
Statesboro connected on 12 3-pointers, but it wasn’t quite enough as Effingham County overcame and early Blue Devil run to come away with a 58-49 win Friday night.
Statesboro’s Jaqawn Raymond led all scorers with 28 points and hit six times from behind the arc, but he couldn’t get his final attempt of the night to fall with the Rebels leading in the final minute and the Devils’ chances running out.
Jakeenan Gant and T.J. Rines paced Effingham with 12 points each.
With the Rebels nursing a slim lead through much of the fourth quarter, Effingham ran down the clock to just under a minute, but couldn’t extend their 3-point lead. Raymond’s attempt on the other end of the floor was long and Gant responded with a layup to stretch the advantage to 54-49 and put the game on ice.
After falling behind 12-4 in the early going, Statesboro surged out to a 16-0 run to take the lead early in the second quarter. All but two of the Devils’ made field goals in the first half came from behind the arc and took a 34-26 lead into halftime.
That’s where Statesboro’s luck ran out.
Effingham came out of the break hot and notched a 12-2 run to begin the second half.
The Rebels grabbed a 42-40 lead heading into the final quarter and Rines’ layup with 5:07 remaining put Effingham in front for good.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.