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Jackets look for a spark

    BROOKLET — After a few down seasons, Southeast Bulloch is looking to rebound on the basketball court this season.
    The Yellow Jackets struggled to a 2-24 mark last season, but have three starters returning with another year of experience. SEB is also hoping that this past offseason will be a springboard into the new season.
    “I think that we had a pretty good summer,” SEB coach John Page said. “We played a lot of games against some good competition. Hopefully, that has given us a chance to improve coming into the season.”
    This year, the Jackets boast five seniors — many of whom played an integral part on last season’s team. But another year’s worth of coaching can’t make up for a lack of height — something that the Jackets will have to deal with all season.
    Blake Lundy is one of the most experienced players on the squad and will combine with Jamal Johnson to form the SEB front court, which has just three players over six feet. The duo will be depended on heavily to produce offensively and defensively in the paint as the matchups will be tough against larger teams.
    “That’s not something we can really control,” Page said. “We just do the best with what we can. Blake and Jamal are going to have to play tough all season.”
    The Jackets’ main offensive weapon this season will once again be Devontae Tremble. As a freshman, Tremble started to get time on the varsity squad in the final weeks of the season. Last year, the shifty guard was given the reins to the offense. This season, he’ll once again be depended on to set the pace.
    Standing just over 5-foot-6, Tremble isn’t the most physically imposing player on the court, but many opponents have learned the hard way that he is always a threat. Tremble is fearless in driving the lane and — with improved shooting from the outside — will make the Jacket offense more potent this season.
    SEB will once again be facing a loaded region. Laney figures to be a state title contender once again, with Swainsboro, East Laurens, Dublin and others all posing challenges in their own right.
    “The thing we’re most focused on is ourselves,” Page said. “We’re concerned with improving a little bit each day. We know that we have work to do and tough teams to play. We just need to keep raising our level of play.”
    SEB girls try to take the next step
    Much like their counterparts on the boys team, the Southeast Bulloch girls have an uphill battle to fight this season.
    The Lady Jackets struggled through much of the 2010-11 campaign, but there were some bright spots down the stretch. With a very young team taking the court each night, SEB finally got comfortable late in the season, notching a few wins and playing tough against some good teams in finishing with a 5-20 mark.
    This season, some key players return, but a lack of experience with others will be a challenge to team depth.
    “We have some girls that we know we can count on,” SEB girls coach Ryan Lewis said. “But there are a lot of very young girls who don’t have varsity experience. Some of them will play JV for us and hopefully some others can get their feet under them and give us some depth on the varsity bench.”
    Despite the lopsided record last season, it marked a three-win improvement from Lewis’ first season at the helm in 2009-10. With returning starters like Gloria Lingle, Breanna Gates and Nira Byrd back in action this season, the Jackets are eager to continue their turnaround.
    “We’re trying to stay motivated,” Lewis said. “Our older girls have done a good job of helping out our newer players. They want to keep winning more games.
    "Whenever there has been a lull in practice, I’ve been reminding them of those close games that we lost in the fourth quarter last season. Giving a little more effort is the key to turning those losses into wins this year.”

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.