Statesboro raised some eyebrows earlier this week with its win over Drew in the first round of the Class AAAAA state basketball playoffs.
The opening round win may have been an upset, but today brings a true goliath into the Blue Devils’ path.
Statesboro (17-10) once again heads to the suburbs of Atlanta. Today at 4 p.m., the Devils will take on top-seeded Miller Grove (26-3).
“We know we’re in for a big test,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “I think we built a lot of confidence by winning our first game against a tough team on the road. We’ve had a couple of really good days of practice and now we’ll go up there and try to do it again.”
Miller Grove’s program is still relatively new – playing its first season in 2005 – but has already found more success than most schools will ever dream of.
In just their fourth year of existence, the Wolverines claimed the 2008-09 Class AAAA state championship. In fact, since that season, the Wolverines are the only team to claim that title and are defending six-time champs.
The only reason there will be a new Class AAAA champ this season is that — like Statesboro — Miller Grove has made the leap up one classification this season. But the step up hasn’t slowed down the Wolverines one bit as they claimed their seventh consecutive region championship earlier this month.
“They’ve proven time and time again that they’re a really good team,” Hill said. “They’re big and they execute very well. Watching them on tape, it’s easy to see why they have so much success.”
On Statesboro’s young roster, there isn’t an individual star that can overwhelm Miller Grove. Instead, the Devils rely on strength in numbers.
In their opening round win over Drew, five different Devils scored at least 10 points. Senior Michael Salomon and sophomore Cameron Harvey both battled inside while the SHS junior trio of Deonte Whitfield, Myles White and Jaylan Patrick all had stellar shooting nights.
Everyone will have to be on the same page once again if another win is in the cards.
“Miller Grove is a bigger team,” Hill said. “Maybe we can take advantage of our quickness to get some open shots. But the big thing is going to be rebounding. We’re going to have to get after it on rebounds at both ends of the floor.”
While the Wolverines have just two players on the roster under six feet, no one is averaging more than seven rebounds per game. Of course, much of that can be reasoned away from Miller Grove's tendency to not need many second chances after it gets its first shot.
Even if the Devils execute offensively, the Wolverines still present plenty of problems.
Junior guard Alterique Gilbert is averaging 18.5 points per game, with senior forward Lamont West hot on his heels at 15.8 ppg.
Today's winner will advance to the state quarterfinals to face either Apalachee or Warner Robins next week.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.