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SHS, Screven, Portal go back to work
Blue Devils and Griffin meet again
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    It’s not too often that teams from different region meet three times in the same season, but that will be the case tonight when Statesboro travels to Macon to face Griffin at Mercer University in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament.
    It’s also not very common for that opponent to have an entirely different look the third time around.
    Since Statesboro’s last meeting with GHS on Jan. 2, the Bears have picked up two power forwards who have drastically changed the look of their team. Six-foot-7 senior Charles Corbin was averaging 17 points and nine rebounds coming into the state playoffs,  and 6-foot-4 Frank Craven puts in seven points per game.
    “It’s like playing a whole new team,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “I can see these two new guys have made a big difference in their team.”
    Griffin started 1-9 before the arrival of the two big men, and since have won 15 of their last 16.
    The Devils (18-11) will have to rely on their knowledge of the old with new, as Hill knows the Bears (16-10) like to run a fast-paced game.
    “They like to run, we know this,” said Hill. “We know they have Sidney Harris who’s one of the best scorers in the state. They have very good athletes, they execute well and they always have talent.”
    Griffin won the state championship in 2003 and advanced as far as the last 16 each of the last three years. Harris, a senior guard, scored 44 points during the state tournament in 2006.
    “We have to make sure we jam up on defense pretty good and not slack off on anybody,” said senior Sean LeGree. “We have to make sure we lock down the main shooters like Sidney Harris and pretty much play our game.”
    Morgan Doty talked about the pressure of reaching this stage of the season.
    “Nobody really expected us to be here period,” said the senior role player. “We’re just playing loose, anything for us is just a bonus. We’re playing to play again.”
    The two teams split the regular season match-up, Griffin winning by 12 in December and the Blue Devils holding on by three in January.
Acree returns home
    It’s homecoming for Screven County head coach Jennifer Acree, as she brings her 24-5 Lady Gamecocks into the second round of the GHSA Class AA tournament. Acree, an Albany native, and SCHS will face Dodge County tonight at the city’s Civic Center at 7 p.m.
    “It’s going to be great,” said Acree of the return home. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere. Some of my family that’s never had an opportunity to watch us will finally get to see what we’re all about.”
    Family, friends, former coaches and the like will create a home crowd away from home for SCHS. As if the Lady Indians won’t already have their hands full, Acree expects a large number of patrons donning red and white by tip off.
    As for on the court, Screven and Dodge are familiar with each other having come from the same region just a year ago. This year’s Indians are the No. 1 seed out of region 4-AA, beating Cook in the first round.
    Acree said Dodge’s game will center of their low post play, meaning Kadedra Evans will have to be at her best.
    “(Evans) is going to have to be in attack mode,” said Acree.
    With 24 wins on the season, Acree said she told her team they must be doing something right to have gotten this far and that at this point, there’s not much else she and her staff can do.
    “I have done everything that I’ve needed to do to prepare them — the only thing I can’t prepare them for is their mentality,” said Acree. “The effort has always been there, but when we have our mind on the game we play well.”

Panthers face Atkinson County
    As the saying goes, ‘This time of year, everybody’s good’.
    The Portal Panthers know they can’t overlook Atkinson County tonight in the second round of the GHSA Class A playoffs at Savannah State University. The Rebels are a No. 4 seed and knocked off Taylor County on Saturday to advance to tonight’s 8:30 p.m. game.
    “Everybody’s good at this stage of the season,” said PHS head coach Jeff Brannen. “They did beat a No. 1 seed, so anything can happen.”
    The Panthers haven’t been this far in the state tournament for as long as most people can remember, but that hasn’t had any effect on PHS according to Brannen.
    “I told the team this could be a special year,” said Brannen. “We have to take advantage of the opportunites that we have and go out and play hard every game — and just play.”
    Atkinson (17-11), like Portal’s first-round opponent Wilcox County, will come out in a zone, something PHS struggled with in the first half of Saturday’s win. The Rebels set up in a 1-2-2 in the halfcourt set.
    “We just got to be patient and find the open areas, move the ball and hopefully knock down some jumpshots,” said Brannen. “I thought we did pretty well in the second half (against Wilcox County) by getting the ball inside and making them play defense. We had 15 turnovers in the first half and just two in the second.”
     At 6-foot-4, sophomore Keith Edmonds is the Rebels’ leading scorer. Slashing guard McKenzie English wreaks havoc by penetrating the basket from the perimeter.
    The Panthers will leave Portal today around 3 p.m. and then grab some dinner in Savannah before the start of tonight’s contest.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9408.