After recording two consecutive upsets in its region tournament, it didn’t seem likely Statesboro would be prime for being upset in its first round playoff game.
However, Locust Grove is no ordinary No. 4 state playoff seed.
Prior to Saturday night, the Wildcats were 17-11 and 9-7 in their very competitive region 4-AAAAA. Having to play Wayne County, Ware County and now Locust Grove in consecutive games is a murderer’s row of competition — yet Statesboro was up to the task again.
The Lady Blue Devils came away with a 65-40 win over Locust Grove Saturday night, using the same trademark defense that held Ware County to 27 points a week prior. Statesboro held Locust Grove to 32 percent shooting and limited the scoring to just one player for the Wildcats — Paige Lewis.
Lewis gave Statesboro all it could handle from her point guard position. She scored 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting with six rebounds. However outside of her, the rest of the team managed a mere 26 percent shooting clip and just 19 additional points.
“You could tell Lewis was a straight up scorer,” said head coach Jeff Seier. “Zamiya Passmore was nursing a bum ankle, which worked out for us because she is a heck of a player too.”
Contrary for Statesboro, it wasn’t the Robins sisters who led the way in scoring like it had been all regular season. Instead it was the hot-shooting hand of Molly Mikell — who finished with a team leading 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting — who was able to pull Statesboro out of an early hole.
Statesboro came out of the gates not shooting well at all, missing its first seven shots before Mikell broke the spell nearly four minutes into the quarter. By then Locust Grove was up 11-5 and already had eight points from Lewis. But Mikell was starting to heat up, and proved to be an effective catalyst the rest of the game.
With the score 12-7 and around 2:30 left in the opening quarter, Mikell would sink two free throws then two possessions later nail a three off a pass from Dayonna Henry to tie the game at 12. Lacy Robins would finish out the quarter with five straight points to give Statesboro a 17-14 lead going into the second quarter.
“She (Molly) was unbelievable,” Seier said. “She had surgery back before the season started and just got worked into the rotation in January. It astonishes me.”
Statesboro went on to double-up Locust Grove for the rest of the game, outscoring the Wildcats 48-24. Even as Locust Grove would find a small run in them during the beginning of the third quarter where they cut the lead down to 39-31, Statesboro would respond with a 9-3 run to end the quarter — powered by six points from Henry.
Statesboro would go in to bury Locust Grove 17-7 in the fourth quarter, as Statesboro would experience their fourth largest win of the season. As Seier sees it, his team’s confidence is riding higher than ever.
“We’ve got some confidence in ourselves and seeing Wayne and Ware win Friday let us know our region was as good as any in the state,” Seier said.
Even while she didn’t have a great shooting night, Lacy Robins did stuff her statline in other departments. She’d finish with eight rebounds, 11 assists and five steals — once again proving even when she’s in a cold streak she’s one of the best hoopers in Bulloch County at just 15 years old.
“Lacy’s assists set us up with some clean baskets,” Seier said. “She played a major part in tonight’s win.”
Statesboro (19-8, 5-3) now gets the pleasure of facing Flowery Branch, the No. 2 seed from region 8-AAAAA who is 22-6 and fresh off a 58-32 win against North Springs in the first round.
The game time and date of round two’s game is still TBA, though it will be played in Statesboro.