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Statesboro to host annual 'Gentlemen's Classic'
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Statesboro's O'Aaron Ware, center, sinks a shot during a Dec. 13 win over Swainsboro. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    The presents have all been opened and the relatives have gone back home, but there’s still a few more orders of business for Statesboro’s holiday season.
    The Gentlemen’s Classic returns to the Devil’s Den today and runs through Saturday as five great GHSA programs — and one school from South Carolina — get in a few more exciting games to send out 2013 in style.
    “We’re proud to host this tournament every year,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “It means a lot for us to be able to bring a lot of quality teams to our gym and I know we like to test ourselves against the best teams we can find.”
    The Blue Devils (9-3) are looking to continue a hot streak that has now stretched to two weeks. Statesboro dropped three consecutive games early in the season, but won a pair before sweeping all three of its matchups in last weekend’s U-Save-It Classic in Albany.
    For a team looking to repeat — and perhaps eclipse — last season’s run to the Final Four of the Class AAAA state tournament, perhaps the tough competition is what gets the Devils’ blood boiling.
    “We were hoping that those tough teams in Albany would bring out our best effort, and I think that happened,” Hill said. “We played up to our expectations. Now we get another opportunity in our own tournament. I really think we’re getting to where we want to be right before we get to our region schedule.”
    Region rival Liberty County joins Bradwell Institute — which Statesboro played earlier this season — in the tournament field, but won’t face the host team. The Blue Devils will take on Brunswick, Osborne — travelling in from Cobb County for a third consecutive season — and Battery Creek out of Beaufort, S.C.
    Blocs of three games will run for each of the three days of the tournament.
    For the Devils, the Gentlemen’s Classic offers another opportunity to send a message that they intend to make another deep run into the postseason.
    “I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Hill said. “These tournaments really bring the best out of our guys. I think we see teams that we don’t usually play and our guys want to prove that we can play with anyone.”
    By the time play concludes on Saturday, Statesboro will have played six games in a span of just eight days. Legs are sure to be tired, but Hill is glad that his team is getting experience for the Region 3-AAAA tournament where his Devils will face a similarly busy schedule if they hope to defend their title from last season.
    Statesboro gets six days to rest following the tournament before beginning its region schedule with a home date against Liberty County slated for Jan. 3.

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