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Liberty tops SHS
Statesboro's Jerquale Lee, front, beats Liberty County's Feddie McSwain to a loose ball only to watch it slip off his fingers out of bounds in the fourth quarter on Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    The new year got off to a rocky start for the Statesboro boys basketball team as they dropped a 61-53 decision to Liberty County Friday night at the Devil’s Den.
    Freddie McSwain led the Panthers with 20 points while Jishaun Harris added 16 and Connor Bailey tossed in 11 more to keep the Devils at bay.
    Losses are never fun, but this one cut deep for the Devils as the dropped to 9-4 overall and – more importantly – 0-1 in Region 3-AAAA play.
    “This was a tough one,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “We know that we can’t afford to lose many region games if we don’t want to make things tough on ourselves down the road.”
    Statesboro trailed throughout the first two quarters and was behind 28-27 at halftime before Micheal Salomon’s jumper gave the Devils their first lead early in the third quarter.
    The Devils looked to have momentum as they edged ahead on a free throw from O’Aaron Ware and a dunk by Jaylan Rawls. Zaquavian Smith (21 points) put the Devils up 38-33 on an alley-oop slam, but was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on to the rim after his dunk.
    Joshua Powers hit the two free throws ensuing the technical, starting a 14-2 run for the Panthers that put them ahead for good.
    After hitting its first two shots of the fourth quarter to claw within 45-44, Statesboro misfired on eight consecutive attempts from the field, allowing Liberty to slowly pull away.
    “We just missed too many open shots,” Hill said. “I thought we played hard, but when you don’t hit your shots and the other team is making theirs, it’s going to be a tough night.”
    Statesboro faces Richmond Hill on the road in a non-region matchup tonight. The Devils get their next chance for a sub-region win Tuesday at Wayne County.   

Lady Devils 41, Lady Panthers 34
    Nothing came easy for the Statesboro girls, but a strong second half propelled them to a 41-36 victory over Liberty County in their first sub-region game.
    “No one said that any wins have to be pretty,” SHS coach Jeff Seier said. “The important thing is that we got ourselves a win in region play. You’ve got to win the ones at home and get what you can on the road.”
    Statesboro (9-7, 1-0 Region 3-AAAA) and Liberty (6-7, 0-1) were tied after both the first and second quarters. The Lady Panthers took an early second half lead, but the Devils got buckets from Tanice Johnson (9 points), Shanikwa Buie (8) and Staysa Everett (8) as part of an 8-2 run that put SHS up 30-25 after three quarters.
    Liberty’s Briana Reece led all scorers with 15 points and scored 11 of the Panthers’ 17 second half points. Reece’s layup off of a steal got Liberty within 36-31 with just over two minutes to play, but short jumpers from Everett and Khayasia Rollins kept the Devils comfortably ahead.
    Statesboro’s boys and girls squad return to action tonight as they hit the road to take on Richmond Hill.

SHS JV boys win
    Statesboro’s junior varsity boys ran their record to a perfect 8-0 as the Blue Devils defeated Liberty County Friday night by a score of 46-34.
    Cameron Harvey led the Devils with 15 points and Deonte Whitfield chipped in nine.
    The JV squad will be back in action tomorrow evening as it travels to Richmond Hill for a 5 p.m. tip-off preceding the varsity games.

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