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Holiday tournaments tip off
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Statesboro High's Myles White drives past Swainsboro defenders during the third quarter of a Nov. 17 victory at the Devil's Den. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

By HORACE HOLLOMAN
hholloman@statesboroherald.com

    There will be no shortage of competitive high school basketball during the holiday season as teams gear up for local tournament action.
    For Statesboro High School and Portal, the next few days will be a chance to show the community just how far they’ve come in the young season.
    The Blue Devils, led by longtime head coach Lee Hill, will begin their tournament today. This year’s Statesboro Gentleman's Classic will feature eight teams.
    “We get to host our tournament at home and I think you’re going to see some great basketball,” said Hill, the current wins leader among all active head coaches in boys basketball in the state.
    For Portal, both the girls and boys team will be in action. The boys tournament will feature just three teams (Portal, Long County and Dodge County) and will play in a round-robin.
    On the first night, Dec. 28, Long County will take on Dodge County. Portal will play Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 7 p.m. against LCHS, then again the following night against the Indians.
    “Long and Dodge are bigger schools, so we’ll be able to get a lot of experience,” Portal boys basketball head coach Jeff Brannen said.
    With the first game of the Statesboro Gentleman’s Classic set for 6:30 p.m. today, here’s a few key players and factors to watch if you’re headed to the game.

Bouncing Back
    The Blue Devils are coming off a 1-2 finish at the Albany U-Save It tournament held last week. Statesboro’s head coach said his team received great experience in the U-Save It tournament and are ready to host.
    “We have some great teams coming in. It’s a great time to play during the holidays. These teams are going to make you work and make you see what you need to focus on,” Hill said.
    The Blue Devils will host Bryan county, Monroe (Albany) Westover, SEB, Liberty County, Jenkins, Johnson High School (Savannah).
    Hill said Westover, (6-3, 3-1 Region 1-AAAA), is a typical powerhouse school. The Patriots are coming off a 20-10 season.
    Johnson High School will also be an exciting team to watch. The Atomsmashers lost to Morgan County in the Final Four just two years ago. 

It's a Trap
    The Lady Panthers’ trap defense is a little new, but still very effective. Due to his team’s lack of depth, girls head coach Cliff Hubbard said his unit can’t trap the entire game. So far, it seems to be a useful defense to help his team force turnovers and run in transition.
    It will be interesting to see just how willing

Players to Watch
    Darius Huff- Huff has come into his own this season, helping lead an inexperienced group along with backcourt mate Malik Williams.
    Williams is coming off an injury, but should be ready to play in the tournament, Brannen said. Without Williams on the floor, Huff scored 26 points to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists against Treutlen in the team’s previous game.
    Chandalier Morgan- Morgan may be soft spoken at time, but her game does the talking for her. Portal’s deep threat from beyond the arc is having a strong season this year.
    Morgan has torched quite a few defenses this year with her long-range shot and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger.
    Trayveon Burns- With so many key players on this star-studded Statesboro High School team, coach Hill said he’s been very impressed with the play of Burns over the last several weeks.
    Burns, just a sophomore, is starting to fit in well with the Blue Devils’ experienced lineup.

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