The Statesboro boys entered Friday’s Region 2-AAAAA championship game on a 20-game win streak, with the closest game being a 14-point win. The lack of playing in a tight game really seemed to affect the Blue Devils.
With a pesky Wayne County squad playing tough throughout the night and clinging to a late lead, Statesboro turned the ball over twice in the final 20 seconds of play, leading to four straight Yellow Jacket points and sealing the deal on a 49-46 Wayne County victory and region title.
“I was worried about us not having played a close game,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “This one really hurts so bad. Our guys did some things they hadn’t done all year. We only really have two guys who have played in this kind of atmosphere, and unfortunately it showed tonight.”
Statesboro took a one point lead at 46-45 on a Jo Burns layup with 1:30 left in the game. The game remained 46-45 as the Yellow Jackets missed a shot with just over 25 seconds to go. Zarion Griffin proceeded to bring the ball upcourt, but Shamar Taylor stole the ball on an errant pass, and was immediately fouled.
Taylor made both free throws, giving the Jackets a 47-46 lead. Statesboro brought the ball upcourt and called a timeout with 5.8 seconds left. The Jackets then stole the inbounds, and Taylor went in for a layup as the buzzer sounded and promptly ran to the Statesboro student section to taunt them after the upset.
“I don’t know what to say. We had a gameplan and things just weren’t falling,” Hill said. “Credit Wayne County for making some big shots in the second half. Griffin went out with cramps for a couple minutes, and that didn’t help. We have to try and get past this one and move on.”
Zarion Griffin was the only Blue Devil player in double figures, as he scored a game high 23 points. The next leading scorer was Leslie Black with eight points.
The Blue Devils looked tight from the start, and had their worst shooting night of the season. Meanwhile the Yellow Jackets caught fire in the second half, including getting four NBA-range 3-pointers from newcomer B.J. Wright who had 14 second half points.
The loss keeps Statesboro from claiming a top seed in the state tournament despite being a mainstay in the Class AAAAA rankings for much of the season. They’ll still have a No. 2 seed and host Woodland who is the third seed out of Region 4-AAAA. The girls will play Jones County Friday at 6:00 followed by the boys and Woodland at approximately 7:30.