Expectations couldn’t be higher for the Statesboro girls as they enter this week’s Region 2-AAAA tournament.
Last season, SHS lost just once in region play en route to a title. This season, the Lady Blue Devils (23-3, 10-0 Region 2-AAAA) are undefeated in league play and gunning for back-to-back championships.
Tonight, Statesboro squares off against Richmond Hill in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Although a win won’t guarantee a region title, the game is the biggest of the season for each team. A victory tonight will secure a spot in the next round and will clinch a spot in the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament.
“We’ve made sure everyone knows what is at stake,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “We’ve had a good year, but we need another win to get to state. We’ve made it clear all week at practice that we need to be focused and ready to play.”
Statesboro and Richmond Hill met up earlier this season in the SHS-hosted ‘Ladies Night Out” tournament. The Devils notched an easy 58-30 win in that game, but won’t be relying on the past in tonight’s matchup.
“We’re totally ignoring that first game,” said Seier. “Too much changes throughout the year to be comfortable with the fact that we beat them the first time. Richmond Hill is a solid team and we’ll have to be focused to get another win.”
Perhaps the biggest weapon for the Devils is their experience.
Statesboro made a run into the Elite Eight of last season’s state tournament and have all but one key player returning from last year’s squad.
With another year of progress and maturity under their belts, the Devils figure to be the team to beat this week.
“Experience is definitely a factor,” said Seier. “It’s a big help when you’re in a big game and know what to expect. We have a lot of experience and confidence on this team that should help us.”
Another help to Statesboro could be the return of star forward and leading scorer Alisia Jenkins. The junior guard has been out of action for over two weeks with a broken nose, but Seier stated that Jenkins had an appointment Tuesday afternoon and was 75 percent sure that she will be cleared to play.
After sweeping through their sub-region, the Devils — who are ranked ninth in the state in the latest coaches poll — are the prohibitive favorite to grab Region 2-AAAA’s top seed in the state playoffs as region champion.
Statesboro’s biggest competition is likely to come from Glynn Academy. The Lady Red Terrors enter the region tournament as the top seed in subregion A. Glynn Academy served up the Devils’ only region loss last season only to see Statesboro get revenge via blowout in the 2010 region championship game.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9408