By CHRIS STANLEY
A fully healthy lineup finally provided dividends for Statesboro as the Blue Devils beat defending GISA state champions First Presbyterian Christian Academy by a count of 70-59 Monday night in the first night of the Devils' annual Gentleman's Classic tournament.
Even though Daniel Cooper and Traveyon Burns played limited minutes and didn’t have the largest impact on the stat sheet (14 points combined), but head coach Lee Hill will tell you having the pair back made all the difference.
“Just their presence picks up everyone else’s game,” Hill said. “They brought up everyone tonight and that’s how it should be.”
Statesboro made their first three shots of the third quarter to go up 47-38, but as usual even while trailing by nine with two and a half minutes left in the third quarter FPCA would hit four of their next six shots to close things out on a 4-0 run to trail 51-46 going to the fourth quarter.
The game’s apex came with just under two minutes to play, when after leading by as many as nine in the fourth quarter FPCA came back again to cut the Statesboro lead -- this time via back-to-back transition buckets off Statesboro miscues.
Now down 63-59, FPCA had a chance to make it a one-possession game for the first time since the 6:32 mark in the first quarter. However an errant pass by George Mitchell would fly out of bounds to give Statesboro possession, allowing Cameron Harvey to attack the basket and draw attention to himself — leaving Jordan Wright wide-open underneath for the easy dish.
“We attacked the paint whenever we could tonight,” Hill said. “They had a real tough 2-3 zone, so we had to break it up by attacking the basket.”
The next possession saw FPCA miss an easy shot at the rim, grab their own rebound and then miss again, giving Statesboro the ball back once again. Kirkland — who grabbed the initial board — found a streaking Burns down the floor with a football-eaque pass for the seemingly wide open lay-up.
However Burns was trailed close by Mitchell, who fouled Burns hard on the layup. Nearly parallel to the floor, Burns still had the balance and foresight to toss the ball off the glass and into the rim for two points to put Statesboro up 67-59 with 54 ticks left on the clock.
FPCA still had one last chance for a three to make the game manageable, but a cross-court pass would be stolen by Kirkland, forcing free-throws for Statesboro and icing the game for good.
To FPCA’s credit, they fell behind by double digits in three separate occasions and managed to close all of those gaps to at least five points. It was their first loss of the season and snapped a 14-game winning streak going back to last season.
“A team like that who’s gone to state is going to know how to get back in games,” Hill said. “I don’t care what level they are. When you have shooters like they do they won’t be out of games for very long.”
Harvey and Wright would combine to give Statesboro their biggest lift. Wright scored a season high 24 points on a very efficient 11-of-14 shooting with nine rebounds. Harvey added 19 off 7-of-14 shooting with six boards and five assists.
In his first game back from injury, Burns was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field with six dimes and only one turnover.
“I just can’t tell you how nice it is to have some more bodies on this team,” Hill said. “We just have to get these guys back in game shape and we’ll be alright.”
Statesboro (4-6) rolls on with the Gentleman’s Classic tonight when they play Glynn Academy (7-5) at 8 p.m.
ARC 78, Glynn Academy 69
ARC won their tenth game of the year beating Glynn Academy in the 6:30 game of the Gentleman’s Classic Monday evening. ARC’s Moses Williams and Jason Weaver led the way with 18 points each, followed by Dantavian Stevens with 15. Glynn’s Santana Young led all scorers with 29 points in the loss.
Glenn Hills 78, Swainsboro 48
Glenn Hills started off the Gentleman’s Classic with a boom Monday afternoon with a 30-point thumping of Swainsboro. CJ Bowers led all scorers with 25 points to push Glenn ahead, while Timmy Sellers added another 18. Swainsboro managed to get three players in double-digits with Justin Harris scoring 14, Jamil Watkins with 13 and Jaylan McKinny with 12.