Earlier in the week, every member of the Statesboro High School boys basketball team suffered the worst loss of his high school career. The 80-34 pummeling at the hands of Effingham County was humbling, but the Blue Devils weren’t about to let one loss lead to another.
Statesboro (12-12, 6-3 Region 2-AAAA) looked like a totally different team in Friday night’s 57-34 victory over Greenbrier at the Devil’s Den.
“Anytime you lose like we did the other night, it’s important to come right back and have a good game,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “We were able to shake that off and beat a good team tonight. With it being a region game this late in the year, that was a very important win for us to get.”
For SHS seniors Quante Huff, Alex Roach and Tavist Wilson, Friday’s game might have been the last time to shine in front of their home fans.
“Our seniors have really worked hard to make this team the best that it can be,” Hill said. “They haven’t all been on the team for all four years like a lot of seniors, but they put in the time and the effort to get their game where it needs to be for seniors.”
With both teams battling for positioning in the upcoming region tournament, it was Statesboro that proved to be stronger.
Yakeem Coleman went for 15 points, Taylor and Huff kicked in eight each, and Roach pulled down five rebounds.
The game began as a defensive struggle, with both squads netting just a couple of baskets in the first quarter of play. Statesboro took the lead when Taylor converted a pair of free throws, then hit a layup on the Devils’ next possession. Coleman hit a layup of his own before Steven Maier nailed a 3-pointer for Greenbrier to make it 9-7 for SHS after the first quarter.
“We were able to be patient,” Hill said. “Both teams were playing hard early. Our defense kept playing tough and we were eventually able to start working the ball inside to get some more offense going.”
Thomas Brown got the Wolfpack bench on its feet midway through the second quarter with a powerful finish on an alley-oop. The dunk tied the game at 13, but also marked the final time Greenbrier drew even on the scoreboard.
After Brown’s dunk, Coleman connected on a 3-pointer and hit a layup before O’Aaron Ware hit a jumper to put the Devils back in front. Greenbrier hit another field goal before the second quarter clock ran out, but still trailed, 20-16, halftime.
In the second half, Statesboro pulled away as Greebrier’s emotions facilitated its downfall.
With SHS leading, 25-19, midway through the third period, a seemingly innocent foul ended up drawing complaints from Greenbrier, and both Kris Cannon and Fisher Wright were assessed technical fouls.
Coleman stepped to the line and hit three of the four free throws before Jonathan Taylor hit a short jumper on the subsequent possession to push the Devils' advantage to 31-29.
It was clear sailing from that point as the Wolfpack — still flustered by the technicals and other fouls called on them in the second half — were outscored, 14-7, in the third quarter.
With Statesboro's seniors basking in the win during what might have been their final game at the Devil’s Den, SHS easily ran down the final minutes to notch its fourth region win in five tries.
Lady Devils 68, Lady Wolfpack 31
As Statesboro's girls continued their dominating run this season with a 68-31 win over Greenbrier, the five seniors with the best resume in school history had a chance to shine in their final regular-season home game.
Alisia Jenkins, Sierra Kirkand, Aneisha Drummer, Shanice Walker and Ericka McDade started out as freshman four seasons ago. In their tenure as Lady Blue Devils, the program has transformed itself from a competitive group to one of the most feared in the state.
The quintet of seniors has compiled an overall record of 82-20 during their time at Statesboro, including trips to the state playoffs in their first three seasons, consecutive Elite Eight appearances and likely a top seed in this season’s state tournament.
“It’s been a heck of a trip with this class of seniors,” SHS coach Jeff Seier said. “Four years ago, we had these girls come into the program with a ton of raw talent, and it’s been a privilege to watch them grow. I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get another group like this.”
Jenkins, who has led the Devils in scoring in each of the last three seasons, finished Senior Night with a bang, leading all scorers with 18 points.
Kirkland racked up 15 and Drummer totaled 10 as the SHS seniors combined for 54 points on the night. All five got a prolonged ovation from the home crowd as they made their way off the floor following their 17th consecutive Region 2-AAAA win on their home court.
Statesboro improved to 23-1, and its 9-0 region record has already clinched the top slot heading into the region tournament.
The Lady Devils close out the regular season with a trip to Lakeside-Evans on Tuesday before the region tournament at Richmond Hill.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to play at our place again,” Seier said. “We’ve got to go on to region and do a good job there. It would be great to give our seniors a couple more games at home in the state playoffs.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.