The Statesboro Blue Devil girls and boys both know they will have at least one more game at home in the state tournament as they both won in the opening round of the region tournament in Jesup. The girls avenged a loss last week by defeating Ware County 45-25, while the boys knocked off New Hampstead 46-36.
The Statesboro boys had split their season series with New Hampstead winning by 20 points at home, and then losing by 21 points in Pooler.
Wednesday night in Jesup the Blue Devils never trailed, and were only tied once during the game. The recipe for the victory included the usual hard nosed defensive effort, along with being patient, and letting the Phoenix make mistakes.
“I’m proud of these guys for playing great defense all night,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “We let them get back in the game, but we didn’t lose our composure, and that is showing a lot of improvement.”
A low scoring first quarter saw the Blue Devils pull out to a 7-0 lead, but cold shooting from three point range had Blue Devil coach Lee Hill call a timeout, and switch strategy.
“We weren’t hitting from outside, and they were fouling us when we drove,” Hill said. “I told the players we will have more success driving then launching all these three’s and they stuck with it.”
The Phoenix found themselves in foul trouble, and Statesboro took advantage, driving to the basket and drawing fouls, or open baskets in the paint. The Blue Devils scored 18 points from the free throw line, and hit only one three pointer all night.
Statesboro led 24-17 at the half, but the Phoenix jumped out on a 12-3 run to start the third and tied the game at 27-27 late in the third. The Blue Devils once again were able to keep their composure and went on a 10-2 run themselves, keyed by eight points by Zarion Griffin.
Griffin ended up with 21 points including 14 in the second half. Free throws down the stretch by Griffin, and Joe Burns helped finish the 10 point victory. Devin Mikell chipped in with 10 points.
Up next Statesboro will take on the host team in Wayne County at 8:00 on Friday. The Yellow Jackets swept Statesboro during the regular season winning last week in Statesboro at the buzzer 54-53, and defeating Statesboro 57-44 earlier in the season when Zarion Griffin was out with an injury.
Lady Devils 45, Ware County 25
The Statesboro Lady Blue Devils had beaten Ware County pretty easily at home a few weeks ago, but last week lost to the Gators 49-47. That loss prevented Statesboro from hosting the region tournament. Wednesday night Statesboro showed the kind of damage a focused Blue Devil team can do as they pounded the Gators 45-25.
“The biggest thing to come from this win is the fact we will be hosting the state tournament for at least one game,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Seier. “I think the team knew what was on the line, and this is as focused as I have seen them all year.”
This one was all Statesboro from the start. The Blue Devils jumped out to a 26-15 halftime lead behind a balanced scoring attack. The Gators got to within 32-23 at the end of the third, but Statesboro held Ware County to just one field goal in the fourth, as they rolled to the 20 point victory.
“When we lost at their place we let them push us around a little too much,” Seier said. “This time we held our ground and boxed out and got the loose balls.”
Lacy Robins led the way offensively with 16 points, Jamiah Jones added 12 points.
Up next the Blue Devils will take on Wayne County in the region championship. The Blue Devils beat the Yellow Jackets 59-51 in Jesup last moth, but lost in overtime in Statesboro on January 22nd.
“We have to make a few adjustments on how we played Wayne the last time we played them,” Seir said. “We need to make things a little easier for ourselves particularly on offense.”
The Statesboro girls play Friday at 6:30 p.m. while the boys get things underway Friday at 8 p.m.