One night after a disappointing loss at Glynn Academy, Statesboro nearly let another big game slip away.
A 16-point lead over visiting Ware County midway through the third quarter vanished and had turned into a two-point deficit in the final minute of play Saturday night at the Devil’s Den.
Finally regrouping, the Devils got a pair of free throws from Myles White to draw even and – when he was fouled while shooting a desperation 3 with time expiring – got two more free throws from Cameron Harvey with 0.3 seconds remaining to secure a 65-63 victory.
“Even when we led early, we knew that it was just a matter of time,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “(Ware County) scored 82 points against Richmond Hill Friday night and when they heated up, they showed us exactly how they did it. We definitely got pushed, but I’m glad that we were able to step up at the end to get the win.”
The final seconds belonged to the Devils (10-7, 4-2 Region 3-AAAAA), but most of the final period saw Statesboro running on tilt.
Leading 53-39 heading into the final quarter, the Devils’ offense abandoned it.
Where SHS had been meticulous and fluid in creating scoring opportunities early on, Ware County (5-8, 1-7) began to jump into passing lanes and stripe Blue Devil ball handlers to create offense going in the other direction.
The Gators were held to just 19 points in the first half. Their side of the scoreboard started to heat up as Sammy Burley – who led Ware with 18 points – found his stroke.
The Devils were able to keep pace with Ware’s improved shooting in the third quarter, but started to leak oil over the final eight minutes.
Burley continued to knock down nearly every shot he saw while Shaheed Medlock (9 points) cut into the SHS lead with a pair of fastbreak layups.
Keyshon Leonard got Ware within 61-60 with just under three minutes to go and a Burley jumper from the top of the key gave the Gators their first lead of the game with 1:37 to go.
“Ware has a lot of heart,” Hill said. “They missed shots early on, but never gave up. I’m glad that our guys were able to respond in the same way at the end.”
After White had tied it up, Ware seemed to be in line for the final shot of regulation.
Burley streaked down court, but a long pass soared over his head and awarded SHS another possession under the Gator basket with 6.8 seconds to play. Michael Salomon (14 points) got a good look that wouldn’t fall off of the inbound pass.
The loose ball kicked out to Harvey, whose 3-pointer was never on line after he was rolled into by a lunging Gator in what became the game’s defining moment.
Lady Gators 61, Lady Devils 48
Statesboro’s girls have shown sparks in their ongoing effort to get back to the state playoffs, but are still searching for region success.
The Lady Devils (8-8, 0-5) dropped their fifth consecutive Region 3-AAAAA contest in Saturday’s first game, falling to Ware County by a count of 61-48.
Statesboro was behind the 8-ball from the start as star point guard Tanice Johnson was forced out of the game with early foul trouble. The Devils’ biggest scoring threat spent most of her time on the bench and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
“That really makes things tough,” SHS coach Jeff Seier said. “It was a challenge to have to play without our starting point guard against a Ware County team that was playing well.”
The Lady Devils may be sitting at the .500 mark overall, but still haven’t made a dent in the region scoreboard in their first season at the Class AAAAA level.
“We know that we’re struggling and still trying to win a region game,” Seier said. “We’re still looking to turn this thing around. We’re definitely not throwing in any towel. It’s just a matter of being able to respond and improve.”
Amber Robbins assumed much of Johnson’s duties after her departure and led the Devils with 12 points. Even in limited action, ,Johnson was able to rack up 10.
Daejha White led the Lady Gators with 13 and was the only Ware County player to do most of her damage from the field as the Gators scored 26 of their 61 points from the free throw line.
Both Statesboro squads will have a short rest before hosting Brunswick in another region clash Jan. 16.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.