After a pair of hard-fought games over the weekend, Statesboro ended its annual Gentlemen’s Classic in style.
Westside Augusta put up a tough challenge and erased an early deficit, but the Blue Devils persevered down the stretch en route to a 57-51 victory Monday night.
“This was a good win for us,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “Westside played well and we expected that. They also showed us some different looks that we had to adjust to. It’s good for us to get that kind of test.”
Statesboro (9-6) led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Patriots (4-4) — led by Christian Robinson’s game-high 24 points — clawed back to make it a 26-23 SHS lead at halftime.
Westside was able to get even closer in the third quarter and managed to pull ahead in the final quarter, but the Devils closed with a 14-6 run to seal the win.
Junior forward Michael Salomon has been a steady presence inside throughout the season. While providing plenty of two-way effectiveness in the first month of play, it was Salomon’s best offensive showing of the season — a 21-point output — that keyed the Devils’ win.
Salomon was the picture of consistency against the Patriots, scoring at least five points in each quarter.
With Westside clinging to the hope of a late comeback, it was Salomon’s baseline jumper with 56 seconds to play that pushed the Statesboro lead to a three-possession advantage and put the game on ice.
“Mike came up big for us,” Hill said. “That’s what we want to see. (Westside’s) guards were playing really well. We had to go to Mike to get our offense going and he was there to pick us up.”
Statesboro entered the season with just two experienced players — Salomon, and Cameron Harvey, who missed Monday’s game while dealing with a broken nose — but looked like a veteran squad in earning the win.
The Devils watched Westside take a fourth quarter lead, but never seemed rattled. Jaylan Patrick (17 points) put SHS on top for good with a pair of free throws at the 5:36 mark to take a 44-43 lead. On the Devils’ next possession, Salomon was fouled and Robinson was called for a technical foul when he argued with an official.
Salomon hit both of his free throws and Patrick notched another.
Statesboro couldn’t extend the lead on the possession ensuing from the technical foul, but didn’t allow an open look to Westside as it tried to get back into contention.
Patrick was fouled on a shot the next time down the floor and canned both of his free throw attempts to give the Devils all of the breathing room they needed.
After two tournaments in as many weekends, Statesboro now has nearly two weeks to rest.
The Blue Devils will return to Region 3-AAAAA action Jan. 9 as they travel to Glynn Academy.
“We’ve seen a lot in the last couple of weeks,” Hill said. “I feel like we know what we need to do and how we need to adjust. We’ve played a lot of tough teams to prepare us for region play. Now we need to go out and execute and play like we know we can.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.