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Guard play crucial in upcoming games
FRITZ file 2

 With more and more high school teams adding pressure to guards with a mixture of press defenses, the guard positions are under a higher level of scrutiny.
    In the next few days, area teams will rely on the play of their guards to get past some stiff competition as schools ready for a tough, region-heavy schedule.
    For the Southeast Bulloch boys basketball team, breaking the press defense has been somewhat of a sore spot this year.
    “Our guards certainly have to step up,” said Southeast Bulloch head coach John Page. “Whatever they do, they can’t speed the game up, because that plays right into (the defense) hands.”
    This year the Yellow Jackets have a host of players capable of handling the ball such as Markel Ming, Aaron Houston, De’Sean Taylor and Jontrell Wells.
    “Overall, If I had to give them a rating, I’d give them a ‘C.’ Both Markel and Sean Taylor have really come a long way with being the other coach on the floor. That has got to continue to improve,” Page said. “Those two guys have got to make more improvements.”
    Today, the Yellow Jackets will square off against Brantley County in a region crossover game on the road, then face a highly-touted Jenkins (11-2, 4-0 Region 1-AAA) team. Jenkins' 4-0 mark currently leads the region.
    Thursday afternoon before the Yellow Jackets’ showdown with BCHS, Page used seven players on defense in a scrimmage guarding just five players on offense in practice to simulate the intensity his team may face while handling the ball on offense.
    “We know there’s some things we have to iron out. Everyone is going to start jostling for position and this is a very important sub-region weekend for us,” Page said.
    With most teams at the midway point of the season, here’s a look at some other local squads that will rely on solid guard play in today’s games.

    Boys: Statesboro High School

    The Blue Devils are coming off a tough 76-59 road loss to Liberty County— a team Statesboro previously beat 75-74 at home in double overtime, Dec. 5.
    SHS head coach Lee Hill said his team played well and learned a lot in defeat. Now, the Blue Devils are set to face region foes Glynn Academy at home today. And of course, the guards could be the difference makers in the game.
    Youngster Traveyon Burns has stepped up his play since the start of the season. Coach Hill said he’s been pleased with his starting guard’s maturity and confidence, despite being just a sophomore.
    “He picks up things pretty good. He’s got a high I.Q. of basketball and puts us in what we need to run,” Hill said of Burns’ play as of late on the court. “He’s always thinking.”
    The Blue Devils also have an experienced guard in senior Jaylan Patrick. Hill said Patrick can sometimes turn the ball over, but he’s a consistent worker on defense and can make solid passes inside.
    “The guards have come a long way. We’re good down low, but the guards make us go. With (Jaylan Patrick) being in his second year, he’s learning and he hustles on defense,” Hill said.
    Statesboro (10-5, 2-2 Region 3-AAAAA) battles Ware County on the road tomorrow. Scheduled start time is 7:30 p.m.

    Girls: Southeast Bulloch
    Just like their male counterparts, the Lady Yellow Jackets have struggled against the press defense. Today, SEB faces Brantley County on the road then will be home for a matchup against Jenkins.
    “(Guard play) is paramount. If we can’t have our guards handle the ball, then we’re not going to be successful,” SEB girls basketball coach Kristen Barnhill said. “That’s what we focus on everyday. Breaking the press.”
    However, Thursday’s practice for SEB didn’t just focus on breaking the press. The Lady Yellow Jackets also worked on stopping the ball on the fastbreak. A lot of times, that responsibility also falls on the guards.
    Failing to get back in transition defense resulted in a 61-22 loss to Beach on the road Tuesday.
    “The guards run the show and Cole Robertson has got to step up a little bit more. She’s our leader out there,” Barnhill said. “Roshaunda Johnson has stepped up, but she has to be a little bit more of a leader for us as well.”
    The Lady Yellow Jackets (3-10, 1-4 Region 1-AAA) also use guards Nydraysha Ford and Bryanna Soles to fill in as the third and fourth guards in the rotation.
    “They’ve been more consistent lately and are really working hard in practice. We’re getting them more minutes,” Barnhill said. “We’re a much improved team and we’re happy with the progress that we’re making, but our region is so tough that if we don’t replicate that intensity during practice when we get in the game it will be a bit of a shock. So we’re working on it.”

    Girls: Portal High School
    The Portal Lady Panthers suffered a huge blow a couple of days ago when starting point guard Tiffany Harlow injured herself during the team’s practice, just a day before a region game with Jenkins County, Tuesday.
    Portal pulled out a 44-42 win, however, the War Eagles exposed a problem in the Lady Panthers’ offense.
    Without Harlow on the floor, Portal seemed to struggle to move the ball up the court and get set into their offense.
    Portal girls head coach Cliff Hubbard said his players will have to step up in Harlow’s absence. Hubbard said his starting guard is expected to miss as many as six weeks recovering from an ankle injury.
    “It’s going to take everyone. Dashonda Morgan will have to play more and step up,” Hubbard said.
    The Panthers (4-9, 2-2 Region 3-A) are in the middle of the pack at the region standings, tied with Savannah Country Day and Claxton.
    Portal will face Claxton (7-5, 2-2) today on the road at 6 p.m.

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.