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Gentlemen's Classic tips at SHS
Statesboro High's Deionte Reddick, right, and Jaylan Patrick celebrate after holding off Portal during a Dec. 13 clash in Portal. Beginning tonight, the Blue Devils will host three teams in four nights as part of their annual Gentlemen's Classic tournament featuring eight teams from all around the state. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Gentlemen's Classic Tournament Schedule
5 p.m.

    Liberty County. vs. Westside-Augusta
6:30 p.m.
    Osborne vs. Jenkins County
8 p.m.
    Statesboro vs. Rutland

5 p.m.

    Jenkins County vs. Liberty County
6:30 p.m.
    Westside-Augusta vs. Rutland
8 p.m.
    Statesboro vs. Osborne

5 p.m.

    Johnson, Savannah vs. Jenkins County
6:30 p.m.
    Liberty County vs. Osborne
8 p.m.
    Statesboro vs. Westside Augusta

    A few more gifts for the holiday season remain in the form of great basketball games as Statesboro High gets ready to tip off its annual Gentlemen’s Classic tournament today at the Devil’s Den.
    For years, Statesboro has entertained its home fans with a few games squeezed in between Christmas and New Year’s before region play heats up. The last few seasons have seen the scope of the tournament grow.
    While the number of teams in the field — eight this season — is never huge, the quality of those teams is always top-notch and each year seems to bring another opponent from well outside of town that is drawn in by the promise of a competitive tournament.
    The Devils (7-5) spent the weekend before Christmas at another tournament as they posted a 1-2 mark at the U-Save-It Classic in Albany. Now they’ll try to do a bit better on their home court.
    “This tournament is always exciting for us,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “We’re very proud to always be able to bring in good teams and to be able to compete with them.”
    As much as these games serve as a final tune-up for Hill’s squad before beginning the long grind of Region 3-AAAAA competition, it’s also a bit of a reward for Statesboro’s players and fans.
    “It’s a little different when you’re hosting a tournament,” Hill said. “I know the players are happy because they get to have a lot of their family and friends there. I like doing it for our fans. They give us so much support, so it’s nice to be able to play more games in our home gym.”
    The Gentlemen’s Classic will run from today through Monday — including a break from action on Sunday. There will be three games on each day of action, with the first tipping off at 5 p.m. and the rest following immediately after.
    Statesboro certainly hasn’t given itself an easy road, scheduling its three games against powerful teams that are making long trips to participate in the tournament. The Devils will play Class AAAAAA Osborne out of Marietta in metro Atlanta on Saturday night and will close out the tournament with a game against a Westside Augusta squad that has dropped just one contest so far this season.
    In tonight’s finale, the Devils will take on Rutland. Statesboro last faced the Hurricanes in the quarterfinals of the 2013 state tournament. Rutland erased a huge deficit, but the Devils raced down the court to hit a layup as time expired to send them to the Final Four.
    “We know that we’re in for some tough games,” Hill said. “That’s the point of it. Obviously, we want to win and we’re trying to win, but this tournament is about seeing how we match up against real good teams and how we might be able to improve as the season goes on.
    “We want to win for our fans, but the biggest thing is that it gives our players a taste of what we’re going to be up against when it comes to the region tournament.”
    Following the Gentlemen’s Classic, the Devils will get a much-deserved break through the first week of 2015.
    Beginning Jan. 9, Statesboro will begin a near-constant string of region games — where the Devils already hold a 3-1 record — running up to the Region 3-AAAAA tournament during the second week of February.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.