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Tournament time
shs crop
Statesboro High's Cameron Harvey, right, draws a foul on Bradwell's Tavrus Dennard while scoring off an offensive rebound in the second quarter of a Dec. 11 Blue Devil victory over Bradwell Institute in Statesboro. Begining today, both Statesboro High and Southeast Bulloch will take part in the annual U-Save It tournament, hosted in Albany. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Statesboro High School’s boys basketball team started the season on a four-game winning streak. Pressure defense and scoring threats at each position have pushed the Blue Devils to a 6-2 overall record and a 2-2 Region 3-AAAAA record.
    Today, the Blue Devils will start a tough task as they take on three very capable teams in the annual U-Save It Christmas Classic hosted by Albany High School.
    Despite decades of head coaching experience, SHS head coach Lee Hill said he still gets a little  excited for tournaments like today’s games at Albany.
    “I always get excited. I guess that’s what keeps me going,” Hill said.  “You always want to see where your team is stacking up at. You want to play great teams and play against teams that will make you see what you need to work on.”
    Statesboro is coming off a close 46-45 region loss to Richmond Hill Tuesday. Coach Hill said he wants his players to have a strong showing in the Albany tournament.
    “I feel pretty good about our play so far, but I’m a little disappointed we lost two region games,” Hill said.
    The Blue Devils will play their first game of the tournament today at 5:30 p.m. Here’s a few things to look for as Statesboro tries to build on their fast start.
    One key facet to this year’s Blue Devil team is their chemistry on and off the floor. Coach Hill said last year’s tournament at Albany brought the team together. This year, Hill hopes for the same results.
    “Last year when we went down there to Albany it kind of turned our season around,” Hill said. “We came together and played some really good teams. Maybe we can build on it.”
    Statesboro will play some tough teams over the tournament and will need their chemistry to close out some tough games.
    Over the tournament, Coach Hill said he wants his team to learn to finish close ball games. After a 75-74 double-overtime victory against Liberty County the Blue Devils lost two close games by a combined three points.
    Hill said against quality teams, the Blue Devils will have to learn how to pull out the close games.
    “When you get in the playoffs, you’re going to have quality competition. Every game is not going to be a blowout,” Hill said. “You have to keep your composure down the wire. These games that we’re playing now helps you learn to deal with those situations.”
    The Blue Devils will start the Albany tournament against Americus-Sumter. The Panthers (3-5, 2-3 Region 1-AAAA) are coming off a 26-6 season last year.
    Americus advanced to the Elite Eight of the state tournament and should be a solid test for Statesboro.
    The Devils' first game of the tournament begins at 5:30 p.m.

SEB also heads to Albany
    Sometimes a team can have several watershed moments throughout the year. Maybe a big play, or perhaps a defining game.
    For the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets, their watershed moment came after a disappointing 78-43 loss to Johnson County Dec. 8. Since then, the Yellow Jackets have remained undefeated, beating Tattnall County, Screven County and Savannah High School.
    After the game against Johnson County, SEB’s coaching staff came down on their players—especially the guards.
    Johnson County sped the game up against SEB, forcing several turnovers. The turnovers led to easy buckets in transition for the Atomsmashers.
    “In order to survive and get out of this region, we’re going to have to play with teams like Johnson County and Jenkins. Our goal is to improve, which we’ve done these last couple of games,” said SEB head coach John Page. “We really got onto our guards after the Johnson game and in practice we let them know we had to have more leadership from them.”
    Southeast Bulloch (5-4, 3-2 Region 1-AAA) will participate in three games at the Albany High School U-Save It Pharmacy Tournament.
    The Yellow Jackets have plenty to prove in Albany. Here’s a few quick notes on what to watch over the weekend.
    The guards at Southeast Bulloch have stepped up over the last three games for the Yellow Jackets. Markel Ming, Aaron Houston, DeSean Taylor and Jontrell Wells are just some of the guard that have upped their game for SEB.
    “They have settled down a little bit and they’re getting us into what we need to do,” Page said. “When the game slows down for us, through them, the other guys have more confidence. They are going to get the ball and not run away from it and that’s what we’ve been trying to emphasize.”
    SEB guard Aaron Houston spent most of his time on the junior varsity team last year, but this year he’s making his impact felt becoming one of the main scoring threats on the team.
    In the Yellow Jackets’ last win over Savannah High School, Houston had 14 points in the 68-60 victory.
    “He’s very athletic and he can score for us in different ways. On the defensive end of the floor it’s hard to guard him. We’re just happy he’s on our team,” Page said.
    Next up for the Yellow Jackets will be the host of the U-Save It Pharmacy Tournament, Albany High School.
    Albany, a team that plays in a similar style to Johnson County, will play SEB in the last game today.
    Coach Page said it should be an exciting atmosphere for his team.