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Statesboro boys hoops on 10-game winning streak
SHS Basketball
Statesboro High's OJ Reese, left, battles Lifetime Christian's DeMarcus Harley for a rebound during the fourth quarter of the Devils' annual Gentleman's Classic tournament. Statesboro swept all three games of its tournament and has won 10 consecutive games overall as it heads into the meat of its region schedule. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

The Statesboro Blue Devils dropped five straight games for the first time in head coach Lee Hill’s 42-year coaching career earlier this season, but since then they have not lost a game. 

The Blue Devils are in the midst of a 10-game win streak which includes victories against a few pretty impressive teams. The latest top 10 team the Blue Devils have taken down is Swainsboro which is ranked No. 1 in Class-AAA. The Tigers came into Saturday night’s matchup against Statesboro with a 15-1 record and had already beaten the Blue Devils 62-58 earlier in the season.

Saturday night the Blue Devils managed to come back from a 15 point deficit  — thanks to a game-high 31 points from Zarion Griffin — as they handed the Tigers their second loss of the season 62-58. 

The score was indicative of the way Statesboro has turned around the season by turning the tables on their earlier loss, beating the Tigers by the same score as their previous defeat at the hands of Swainsboro.

“I knew we had a lot of talent,” Hill said. “The problem is we have a lot of kids on this team who either have only played JV, or never played a high school game before. I knew it would take some time, but they are starting to come around.”

Hill also attributes the team’s recent success to the tough pre-region schedule they have played. Statesboro has already played seven games against teams that are ranked in the top 10 of the state.

“Effingham, Hiram, Swainsboro, Lithonia and Richmond Hill are all ranked in the top 10,” Hill said. “We won a couple and lost a few of those, but playing those teams has definitely made us better.”

Leading the recent surge has been the play of senior guard Zarion Griffin. Griffin came through with a career high 51 points in the Blue Devils 85-40 annihilation of New Hampstead Friday night on the road. The 51 points was only two points off of the school record of 53 by Eric Ferguson.

“Zarion has always been a great shooter, but lately he is finding lots of ways to score,” Hill said. “If his outside shot isn’t falling he has been driving to the basket and scoring, or getting fouled. He was 13 for 15 from the line Saturday against Swainsboro.”

Hill credits much of the Blue Devils’ success to the way they have picked things up defensively, as well as players understanding their roles better.

“When most of these guys got here they have only played zone defense in middle school,” Hill said. “We have to try and teach them how to play man-to-man defense from scratch. It can take them a little time to understand when to switch, and how to fight through screens.”

Next up for the Blue Devils they will get a chance for a little payback against the team that beat them in the region championship a year ago as the 8-7 Wayne County Yellow Jackets come to call Tuesday night.

“They are always a good team,” Hill said. “I definitely remember what they did to us last year, and a few of these kids were there too, and remember how much that hurt. I wouldn’t say we are looking for revenge, but we do know how important these region games are.” 

The Statesboro girls get things started against Wayne County Tuesday at 6 p.m., with the boys following afterwards.