GUYTON — Jaqawn Raymond has been electrifying all season, but he saved his best performance for Statesboro’s biggest win of the season.
The senior guard exploded for 35 points as Statesboro upset top-seeded Brunswick Friday evening as the Blue Devils advanced to tonight’s Region 2-AAAA tournament final.
Raymond’s efforts easily eclipsed all other scorers, but it took a team effort to take down the Pirates, who entered Friday’s game as the No. 5 team in the state.
“It was all about execution,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “Everybody did their job on both sides of the ball. Jaqawn was great tonight, but it took the effort from everyone on the team to get a win.”
The two teams battled back and forth through the first half as the Pirates got plenty of inside scoring only to see Raymond and Zaquavian Smith combine for seven 3-pointers to battle back for the Devils.
Brunswick looked to have the upper hand when Eddie Delegal (24 points) and Theo Brumer (16) led a late third quarter run to put the Pirates up 44-41 with only the final eight minutes to play.
But that’s when Raymond took over, scoring seven of the Devils’ first nine fourth quarter points to get SHS out in front.
Smith (11 points) hit a floater with just 1:38 to play to put the Devils up 56-48, but Brunswick had one more charge left in it.
Marquis Jones sandwiched a layup in between five free throws from Delegal, and Statesboro’s inability to hit from the line allowed BHS to claw within 56-55 with 38.2 seconds left.
Yakeem Coleman finally broke through for the Devils with a pair of free throws with 23.7 to go and Jonathan Taylor put the game out of reach with another pair to make it 60-55 with 5.6 seconds left.
In addition to getting a shot at the region title, Friday’s win also assured Statesboro of at least one home game in the state playoffs.
“That’s huge for us,” said Hill. “Our region is matched up with teams in Atlanta, so it will be great to stay home instead of having to travel up there.”
Tonight, the Devils will face off against Richmond Hill — which defeated Greenbriar on Friday — for the region title and a No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Lady Devils 62, Lady Gators 57
The Statesboro girls survived a similar upset bid in their semifinal matchup.
Ware County closed to within one points of the No. 1 seeded Lady Blue Devils late in the fourth quarter, but Statesboro was able to survive and advance with a 62-57.
With Statesboro clinging to a late 58-53 lead, Ware’s Shequoyah McPherson drove in for a layup and Dinecici Howard stole the ensuing inbounds pass, hitting a jumper and pulling the Lady Gators within 58-57 with 26.3 seconds to play.
A pair of Shanice Walker free throws extended the Blue Devil lead and Sierra Kirkland hit two more from the line to ice the game after McPherson’s 3-point attempt went long with 5.2 seconds left.
Statesboro advances to tonight’s Region 2-AAAA championship game where it will square off against tournament Cinderella South Effingham which defeated No. 1 seed Glynn Academy Wednesday and pulled off another upset with a 74-71 win over Brunswick in Friday’s first semifinal.
For awhile, it didn’t look like Statesboro was going to break a sweat.
Down 7-4 in the opening minutes, the Devils ripped off a 17-0 run to take control. The Gators answered right back with 11 straight points of their own and Statesboro’s advantage was just 25-17 at halftime.
Ware continued to charge in the third quarter as Candice Smith pulled the Gators within 32-30 on a put back and Howard made it 38-36 on a layup.
Statesboro responded and closed out the final 1:21 of the quarter on an 8-0 run, but the Gators continued to hang close until the dramatic final minutes.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.