Alcovy came to town Tuesday night boasting a high-flying offense, just three losses on the season, and owner of the No. 3 spot in the state rankings.
None of that seemed to impress Statesboro much.
The Lady Blue Devils continued their march through the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs as they dispatched the Lady Tigers to the tune of a 62-52 victory at the Devil’s Den.
“We knew that tonight would be a tough one,” said SHS coach Jeff Seier. “I think our girls really rose to the challenge. They may not have shown their talent against other teams earlier in the year, but we showed up to play against a very good team tonight.”
With the win, the Devils (26-3) advance to the Elite Eight of the state tournament for the second consecutive year. Friday, Statesboro will take on Forest Park, which defeated McIntosh Tuesday and was responsible for ousting the Devils in last year’s Elite Eight.
After a nip-and-tuck first half, the Devils made their move in the third quarter.
Leading 30-27 at the break, Statesboro outscored Alcovy 14-4 to take a firm hold of the game.
The Devils only hit three field goals in the quarter, but went 8 for 10 from the free throw line and locked down on the defensive end to deny any easy scoring opportunities for the Tigers.
“We were finally able to really get going in the third quarter,” said Seier. “We were able to slow (Alcovy) down on offense and got some good free throw shooting and some good inside offense to get ourselves out in front.”
Down 44-31 heading into the final eight minutes of play, the Tigers put together one final run.
Alcovy ripped off the first seven points of the fourth quarter and did so in just 1:09 of play.
The Devils struggled to break the Tiger press and Gabby Sherwood’s 15-footer closed the Tigers to within 46-43 with 4:32 to play, but that is where the rally died.
Shanice Walker (15 points) responded with a layup and two free throws at the 3:35 mark made it a 50-43 SHS advantage. Walkers points kick-started a 12-3 run that gave the Devils a commanding 58-46 advantage with just 1:27 to play.
Kate Palo — who led Alcovy with 21 points — drilled a 3 to get the Tigers within 10 once more, but Statesboro broke through the press and didn’t allow another Alcovy scoring opportunity until Kacie Palo’s irrelevant 3 went down at the final buzzer.
“We knew that Alcovy’s guards could score,” said Seier. “They played a great game and shot well, but they didn’t score enough.”
Alcovy’s only lead came just three seconds into the game when Kate Palo took the opening tip for a quick layup.
Sierra Kirkland paced the Devil attack early on and notched 12 of her game-high 19 points in the first half.
Alisia Jenkins joined Walker and Kirkland in double-digits with 10 points and swatted away four Alcovy shots to make her impact on the defensive sit of the ball.
Friday, Statesboro will travel to Fort Valley for the state quarterfinals against Forest Park.
The game between the No. 1 seeds tips at 4:30 p.m.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.