Another day, and just another lopsided victory for the Statesboro girls.
As has been the case for much of the season, the Lady Blue Devils showed their ability to dominate and totally take over a game, pounding Johnson of Savannah by a score of 79-27 on Saturday night at the Devil’s Den.
Statesboro (15-1) built a 49-19 lead in the first half, then held the Atomsmashers scoreless in the third quarter to turn the game into a laugher.
Senior forward Sierra Kirkland led the Devils with 18 points. Fellow senior Alisia Jenkins was close behind with 15 points, and both Aneisha Drummer (14 points) and Tanice Johnson (10) broke the double-digit scoring mark in the blowout victory.
“Johnson is traditionally a very good program,” SHS coach Jeff Seier said. “We might have had the edge tonight, but it was good to see our team execute throughout the whole game. It was especially nice to be able to play some of our younger girls for a lot of minutes and see what kinds of things we can look forward to in the future.”
In a display that has been repeated many times throughout the season, Statesboro wasted no time in using its superior size and speed. From the opening tip, the Devils were at full speed up and down the court.
Statesboro raced out to a 24-8 lead after the first quarter, extended the lead throughout the game, and forced a shortened mercy clock in the fourth quarter for the ninth time this season.
Suffocating defense provided turnovers and easy points while long passes off of defensive rebounds to streaking guards created many quick, uncontested layups out of thin air.
An athletic and fast-paced team itself, Johnson tried to run with the Devils, but was quickly overmatched by Statesboro. Hurried passes by the Atomsmashers turned into turnovers and the Devils were consistently able to get behind the defense after changes of possession.
“We really ran the floor well all night,” Seier said. “Our girls played hard and executed what we wanted them to for all four quarters. As a coach, that’s all you can hope for.”
One of the brightest spots for Statesboro in Saturday’s matchup was the continued stellar play of Erica McDade. After missing all of her sophomore season and most of her junior year with two knee injuries, the senior guard is back to full strength and has added more offense to the already potent Blue Devils.
McDade finished with nine points and three assists against Johnson. With the Devils pulling away near the end of the first half, McDade provided the exclamation point, drilling two 3-pointers in the final two minutes, including one that just beat the second quarter buzzer.
“It’s great to have her back,” Seier said. “She gives us good outside shooting and is a big boost for us. We hold our breath every time she hits the floor, but she’s been healthy so far and hopefully that will continue.”
As dominant as the Devils were in the first half, they kicked it up another notch to put away Johnson in the second half. The SHS defense was all over the court as Johnson only managed a few good looks, but couldn’t make any. A 19-0 third quarter margin put the game far out of reach and sent both benches into the game to finish off the one-sided contest.
Johnson 62, Statesboro 56
The Statesboro boys couldn’t complete the sweep, falling to Johnson by a 62-56 margin in Saturday’s second game. The Blue Devils (7-11) led by as many as 11 points early in the contest, but couldn’t hang on as the Atomsmashers (11-4) rallied in the second half.
Paced by hot shooting from Yakeem Coleman — who led the Devils with 17 points — and Zaquavian Smith, Statesboro jumped out to a quick lead in the first quarter. The advantage grew as large as 21-10 early in the second quarter, but as the Devils’ outside shooting started to cool off, Johnson began to slowly claw back into contention.
The Atomsmashers got within 33-27 at halftime, then kept pace through the third quarter before finally taking over. Johnson took a brief lead just before the final quarter, then got the upper hand for good with Darrel Myers’ short jumper with 3:34 to play.
Tim Quarterman — who led Johnson with 17 points — and Abidjan Davis (12 points) both hit crucial free throws down the stretch to keep Statesboro from regaining the lead.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.