Tuesday night, Statesboro let a second-half lead slip through its grasp. Wednesday, the Blue Devils weren’t about to make the same mistake.
Already leading coming into the second half, Statesboro rattled off a 16-6 third quarter and cruised late en route to a 67-54 victory over Glenn Hills at the Gentlemen’s Classic.
“This was a really big win for us,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “After last night, we wanted to get back on the court and show improvement. Glenn Hills is a tough team, but we played our game, made some shots, and got the win.”
The Spartans took the lead early in the second quarter and held it for much of what was a sloppy eight minutes of play. At one point, the teams combined to go over five minutes with neither making a field goal and only the occasional free throw between traveling calls, fouls and turnovers.
“There were two different styles of play out there,” Hill said. “We were trying not to run and play like (Glenn Hills) wanted to. We called a timeout to get out strategy straight and then played our game.”
Statesboro finally gained the upper hand as Yakeem Coleman broke the field goal drought and Zaquavian Smith — the game’s high scorer with 16 points — followed up his own missed shot, grabbing an offensive rebound and dishing to Alex Simmons (9 points) to give SHS the lead for good with just under two minutes to go in the first half.
The Devils kept up their momentum coming out of the locker room with some quick offense.
Smith hit a pair of runners, Tavist Wilson notched a putback, Coleman nailed a pull-up jumper and Willie Johnson drilled a 3 to compile an 11-2 run to open the third quarter and stretch the SHS lead to 36-22.
One of the keys to the Devils’ success through the night was their ability to race past the Spartan pressure. Glenn Hills employed a full court press and tight man-to-man defense all night, but Statesboro was consistently able to break the press, avoid traps, and — when the Spartans’ legs wore down — create easy layups.
“We really got up the court well,” Hill said. “We had some trouble with the press last night, but that’s how it goes. The more we see it, the better we get.
“Once we got the ball up the floor, we executed our half-court offense well. We had guys like Alex playing very well on the inside. That kept Glenn Hills from really extending their defense and let our guards get a lot of good looks outside.”
Paced by Smith’s outside shooting and stellar rebounding by Wilson, Simmons and Coleman, Statesboro carried a 41-26 lead into the final quarter. Even as Glenn Hills’ shooters finally found their stroke, the Spartan defense had tired from chasing the Devils up and down the court and the SHS bench emptied with fresh legs that notched layup after layup to stay comfortably ahead until the final horn.
Statesboro High School will return to the court at 6 tonight and play Osborne High School in a game originally scheduled to be played Monday.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.