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Statesboro set to take on Rutland in first round of state

    For the first time since 2010, the Lady Blue Devils of Statesboro are back in the state playoffs.
    Statesboro posted a strong showing in region play during the regular season, then made a run to the Region 3-AAAA tournament championship game to earn a No. 2 seed in the Class AAAA state tournament. The Devils (9-7) open up the playoffs tonight as they host Rutland — the No. 3 seed out of Region 2-AAAA.
    “We’re definitely excited to be here,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “Playing a state playoff game at home is something that hasn’t happened for this team in a long time. We’re looking forward to playing our best and hopefully making this a tradition in the coming years.”
    Standing in the Devils’ way will be a Hurricanes squad which — at 12-5-1 on the season — has a pretty stout record for a No. 3 seed.
    Rutland enters today’s matchup on a roll, having dropped just two of its last 11 games. The Hurricanes figure to pose a big challenge for Statesboro, but the Devils don’t know much more than that.
    “It’s pretty tough to get a lot of information,” Thomas said. “We’ve never seen them play and we don’t even have any common opponents.”
    Without a clear blueprint on how to approach the Hurricanes, the Devils are sticking to what has gotten them to this point. Emmalyne Sisson and Destinee Lanier have both recovered from injuries suffered in the region title game and will help out the SHS defense, which has been solid for much of the season.
    “Our plan all year has been to possess the ball and control the pace,” Thomas said. “We don’t know much about Rutland, but that doesn’t bother us too much. We don’t want to focus on another team so much that we get out of our own game.”
    The biggest key for Statesboro will be getting off to a good start.
    Because of a short sub-region schedule, Statesboro ended its regular season and region tournament a bit earlier than other teams from around the state. As a result, the Devils have played just one game in the last 10 days.
    The last week has seen a bit of an adjustment in the day-to-day routine as the Devils tried to keep the rust off while also resting some legs that have been going strong for nearly three months.
    “We’ve still been practicing every day,” Thomas said. “But we’ve been cutting practices short and not going quite as hard. We’ve just been staying sharp, and I’m sure that everyone will be ready to step up for a playoff game.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.