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Lady Yellow Jackets hit the road for 1st round of state


BROOKLET — Throughout the careers of each and every member of the Southeast Bulloch girls basketball team, each season has started with a focus on just getting better instead of putting an emphasis on postseason success.

The Lady Yellow Jackets are glad that they finally have a new goal to aim for.

Southeast Bulloch put up good and consistent numbers throughout the regular season, then notched a pair of wins in the Region 1-AAA tournament to qualify for the state playoffs. The Jackets travel to Chapel Hill tonight far a first round matchup with their focus now on the do-or-die nature of the playoffs.

"We know that we’ve got a big challenge in the state playoffs," SEB coach Johnnie Miller said. "Our girls haven’t been here before, but I think we’ve built up our confidence. We played some tough teams in front of some big crowds in the region tournament. I think that has gotten us prepared."

The huge strides that the Jackets have taken are evident just by looking at the last weekend of the regular season and the region tournament that ensued. Appling County and Johnson of Savannah each got the better of SEB in their first meeting this season. But the Jackets bounced back to beat Johnson and — with a No. 5 seed on the line — got their revenge against Appling on the final night of the regular season.

As luck would have it, those two teams stood in the Jackets’ way once more in the region tournament and once more SEB rose to the challenge, dispatching both with double-digit victories.

The simple improvement from also-ran to state playoff participant is impressive enough, but the Jackets have done it while playing against bigger schools than they are used to dealing with. Last winter’s region realignment not only took SEB away from all of its familiar rivals, but placed it in Class AAA — the highest classification that it has ever competed in.

Even though the Jackets were thrown into a region featuring the always-tough Savannah schools, they never blinked and have now earned the right to be one of the 32 teams remaining that are playing for the Class AAA title.

"We’ve come a long way from our first practices before the season," Miller said. "As our girls bought into the system, we got better and better. Here at the end of the season, I think that everyone is on the same page and playing well together."

That will have to be the case tonight as the Jackets (15-14) take on No. 1 seed Chapel Hill (24-3).

The Panthers have dominated their competition so far this season, but SEB remains confident. Miller maintained that battling with top teams such as Beach and Savannah High during the regular season will prepare his squad for the challenge.

"It’s a little bit bigger stage," Miller said. "But we still have the same plan. We need to play solid defense, stay patient, and only take the shots that we want. Chapel Hill has some size and talent that will test us, but I’m confident with what we can do if we play how we want to."

The day will begin early for the Jackets as they set off for Douglasville at 10 a.m. this morning. Miller said that the team will stop for lunch in Macon and will also get off the bus a few times along the way to stay fresh for tonight’s win-or-go-home matchup.


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