With a second consecutive Region 2-AAAA title already in the books, the Statesboro girls are now setting their sights even higher.
The Lady Blue Devils (24-3) host Lovejoy out of Region 4-AAAA tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Georgia High School Association state basketball tournament.
Last season, Statesboro made a run into the Elite Eight of the state tournament and — with almost all players returning from last year — have high hopes of making an even deeper run this time around.
“I think that our girls are pretty loose and confident,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “Most of them got to experience what being in the state tournament in like last year. I don’t think that anyone is too nervous.”
That experience could prove to be one of the Devils’ biggest benefits in the do-or-die atmosphere of the playoffs as the players are already familiar with the gravity of the situation and can instead focus on fundamentals and game plans.
“Our girls are pretty well prepared for the pressure,” said Seier. “It might be a bit of an advantage for us since some of these teams aren’t used to being in this situation and might have to get used to playing in a big game.”
Statesboro comes into tonight’s game having not lost a game since the Chatham Schools Tournament over the Christmas break.
Lovejoy, on the other hand, has had a much more difficult time this season.
The Lady Wildcats (12-15) lost nine of their first 12 games, but rebounded to wrestle away a state playoffs No. 4 seed with a late season win over North Clayton.
Lovejoy has a strong pair of forwards in Kim Dawkins and Kaelah Tarrant, but the duo will have their work cut out for them as the Devils rely heavily on their dominating frontcourt of Alisia Jenkins, Sierra Kirkland and Shamiwka Bouie. All three can rack up points in the paint as well as pull down rebounds and their ability to run the court make them a matchup nightmare for opponents.
Statesboro’s back court offers little reprieve as senior guard Raven Thomas provides great ball pressure on defense and Aneisha Drummer can fill it up from outside.
“We’re comfortable with changing our game plan as the game goes on,” said Seier. “I feel like we can do enough different things well that we can switch our strategy or adjust to what another team is doing and still play well.”
As one of the eight No. 1 seeds in the state tournament, Statesboro will be guaranteed another home game if it can get a victory tonight.
Last season, the Devils rolled through the opening two rounds at home before falling to a late Forest Park rally and coming up just short of a Final Four appearance.
The winner of tonight’s game will face either No. 2 Alcovy or No. 3 Hardaway Tuesday night.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.