The Statesboro girls got off to a strong start in the state playoffs, but the road only gets tougher from here.
The Lady Blue Devils (25-3) will get one of their biggest tests of the season tonight as Alcovy (25-3) visits for a 7 p.m. showdown in the second round of the Georgia High School Association playoffs.
Despite their imposing records, both teams had their hands full in last Friday’s opening round.
No. 1 seed Statesboro led by just one point in the fourth quarter before prevailing over Lovejoy and No. 2 seed Alcovy barely survived a scare from Hardaway, but only wins — and not the margin of victory — count at this point in the season.
For the Devils, tonight’s matchup will be like looking into a mirror.
“They’re the spitting image of us,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “They’re like us in so many ways. Alcovy has girls in the post that can run the floor and they like to run a multiple defensive sets. They like to run out in transition and they even have a pair of sisters on the team like we do.”
Indeed, the scouting report on the Lady Tigers reads eerily similar to the Devils’ game plan.
Everything starts for Statesboro in the low post as junior forwards Alisia Jenkins and Sierra Kirkland are dominant down low on both ends of the floor and can run the fastbreak with ease.
Raven Thomas — who led SHS with 15 points in its first round win — can lock down opponents’ point guards with man-to-man defense and generates easy scoring opportunities with her ability to come up with steals. In their half court offensive set, Shanice Walker and Aneisha Drummer patrol the perimeter for Statesboro, ready to knock down jumpers if the defense collapses to cover the constant threats of Jenkins and Kirkland.
“We know that Alcovy is a very good team,” said Seier. “They’re going to give us a really good game, but we welcome the challenge. I think that our girls embrace the competition and play up to the very good teams that we’ve faced.”
With the talent of Alcovy posing as big a threat to the Devils as any team has this season, Statesboro will have to stay away from the pitfalls that allowed Lovejoy to hang around.
In their opener, both Jenkins and Kirkland got into early foul trouble and were forced into fewer minutes on the floor than usual. Their absence also got the SHS offense out of rhythm and many scoring opportunities that could have put the game out of reach went by the wayside.
“We had some silly fouls that hurt us,” said Seier. “It’s like missing too many free throws though. You don’t want to linger on it too much because the team might lose focus worrying about committing too many fouls.”
With a win, the Devils can advance to the Elite Eight of the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
It could also set up a rematch with Forest Park — the team that sent Statesboro home just a few points shy of reaching last season’s Final Four.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.