BROOKLET — In the regular-season finale at Southeast Bulloch Friday night, the Yellow Jackets (14-13, 4-7 Region 1B-AAA) came out for warm ups in blue and gold t-shirts emblazoned with a question mark and the word “grit” on the back.
SEB boys basketball head coach John Page explained the t-shirts stood for the phrase “do you have any grit” and in a 71-62 victory over Toombs County the Yellow Jackets proved they had grit and a little extra.
“We’ve used grit as many ways as we can. Tonight, we even threw in some Will Smith where he said you ‘get jiggy with it’ well we ‘get gritty with it,’” said Page, laughing after his team’s victory on senior night. “I tried to throw in some dance moves to show them. Anything we can do to get these guys to keep it going.”
Page’s message about grit seemed to resonate with his players, especially Yellow Jackets’ forward Joseph Anderson. The 6-foot-2 senior wouldn’t be denied a victory on senior night, leading the team with 19 points.
Anderson suffered an injury a few days prior, but with a little bit of grit, played through the pain in front of an enthused home crowd.
“I was trying to go hard and impress the people in the stands. I work hard everyday at practice and I knew everyone wanted to win so we had to come out and get this win. I had the grit tonight man,” Anderson said, laughing and smiling after his clutch performance against Toombs County. “I had adrenaline running through me and my football coaches were out here tonight and they were depending on me, so I had to make them proud.”
Anderson wasn’t the lone Yellow Jacket with a big game. Center Caleb Carter fought hard on the low post all night, scoring 11 points and guard Aaron Houston hit big shots down the stretch and ended the game with 17 points on the night.
“Everyday we work hard and we practice on what we’re going to do. We move the ball well and we try to communicate on the court,” Anderson said.
Friday night, the Yellow Jackets were able to get a sneak peek at who they will be playing in the first round of the region tournament.
Toombs County (4-20, 3-10 Region 1A-AAA) and the Yellow Jackets will square off once again Monday, and Friday night the Bulldogs gave SEB all they could handle.
Southeast Bulloch jumped out to an early 16-8 lead in the first quarter, but TCHS came back to tie the game at 27-27 at halftime.
In the fourth quarter, SEB started to pull away on a 6-0 run to go up 52-45 with five minutes left to play in the game, but the Bulldogs’ shooters kept the score close.
“We have to do a better job of closing out on their shooters on the perimeter,” Page said. “We have to be better than we were tonight.”
Toombs County trimmed SEB’s lead to as little as 56-55 at the 3:22 mark in the fourth quarter, but Brandon Tremble, who ended the night with seven points, hit back-to-back shots to keep the Bulldogs at bay.
In the first round of the region tournament, the Yellow Jackets will face Toombs County Monday night at Islands High School.
After falling to Beach High School Tuesday night, the Lady Yellow Jackets had pride on the line in their regular-season finale.
Southeast Bulloch came out strong against Toombs County, starting the game on a 10-0 run, but weren’t able to fend off the Lady Bulldogs ending their regular season on a 10-game losing streak.
SEB lost to Toombs County 44-35 Friday, but the work still isn’t over for the Lady Yellow Jackets in the 2015-2016 season.
Southeast Bulloch still has an upcoming region tournament for a chance to earn a spot in the state playoffs.
“It’s the little things that are hurting us. Turnovers at the wrong time, not rebounding at the right time. We have to play four full quarters and it has to be all 13 of us,” said SEB coach Kristen Barnhill.
Against TCHS, it appeared as if the Jackets would cruise to victory. Aalyiah Sandifer and Krystyn Turner scored the team’s first eight points of the game. Sandifer and Turner ended the game with 12 and five points, respectively.
SEB’s Cole Robertson had a big night, scoring 10 points in the game.
The Jackets led TCHS 10-0 with 1:52 left in the first quarter, but the Lady Bulldogs went on an 8-2 to end the quarter.
At halftime, the Bulldogs led 25-19.
“We told them at halftime when they got out to that lead they just coasted the rest of the way. It’s good to be confident, but I think to a certain extent we were overconfident tonight,” Barnhill said. “Hats off to Toombs County. They came out, hustled and worked their tails off. It’s tough to lose like this on senior night, but there’s still some positives.”
The Lady Jackets wouldn’t be held down, however, stinging Toombs in the fourth quarter.
SEB went on a 7-1 run to claw their way back into the game.
With less than four minutes left to play in the game, a costly foul and technical foul was called on the Lady Bulldogs. Sandifer would sink her first two free throws, and Jurnee Cotton sank the subsequent technical foul free throws.
The four consecutive free throws cut the Lady Bulldogs lead to 32-31.
Nonetheless, TCHS would regain control of the game, scoring on their next two trips down the floor.
The Yellow Jackets will have to wait until Sunday to see who they will face in the region tournament. SEB will either take on Brantley County, Tuesday, at Brantley County or play Pierce County at Islands High School.