GUYTON — It was a party Richmond Hill wished it had skipped.
Statesboro had a Welcome Back party for Alisia Jenkins at the South Effingham High School gym Wednesday night and the Lady Wildcats were the entertainment.
The Lady Blue Devils marked the return of their 6-foot-1 junior center by riding her 15 point, defensively intimidating performance into the state playoffs with a dominating 59-43 win over Richmond Hill.
It was the 13th-straight win for coach Jeff Seier’s team which will now play Ware County Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Region 2-AAAA semifinals.
Surprising South Effingham, a 53-43 winner over favored Glynn Academy earlier in the day, will play Brunswick in the other semi at 3:30 p.m.
Jenkins was forced to miss the Lady Blue Devils’ final three games of the regular season due to a nose injury which required surgery.
She only got her medical release to play on Tuesday night, Seier said. Jenkins is having to play with a face mask that looks more fitting for a football player.
“This was her first day back from being out for two weeks,” Seier said. “She couldn’t even practice.
"The mask is brand new for her. I don’t know yet how much it effected her, but I am sure it was hard for her to breathe.”
Jenkins led a trio of Lady Devils (22-3) in double figures as she got strong support from Shanice Walker and Sierra Kirkland who scored 14 points each. Freshman Shanqwa Buie came off the bench to add nine.
`Richmond Hill’s top scorers, Tay Reynolds and Aliyah Johnson, had 14 and 13 points, respectively, but they came long after the issue had been settled. Reynolds had nine of her points in a meaningless fourth period.
Richmond Hill (12-14) was ragged in the early going, primarily due to a pressing Statesboro defense. The Blue Devils, though, were plagued with turnovers.
Statesboro led 14-7 at the end of the first period, and quickly ran the lead out to 24-13, but let Richmond Hill cut the deficit to eight, 26-18, at the half.
However, that all changed in the third period when the Lady Blue Devils’ defensive pressure began to take its toll.
“We played a lot better defensively in the second half,” Seier said. “We went to a 2-2-1 half-court trap in the third quarter, and that turned it around.
“That gave us some momentum.”
Kirkland and Buie scored seven points each to key the third period spurt which saw the Lady Blue Devils outscore Richmond Hill, 17-9, to break the game wide open.Statesboro opened the third quarter by going on an 11-1 run with Buie scoring seven straight points in 37 seconds. She made one of two free throws, got a layup off a steal, hit a layup following Jenkins’ fifth blocked shot of the game, and then put back a missed shot to make it 37-19 with 4 minutes 3 seconds left in the third period.