The Statesboro Blue Devils managed to do something they hadn’t done all year Thursday night, as they won a close game against Hiram 45-43 in the opening round of the Blue Devils Gentlemen’s Classic Tournament.
The Blue Devils had lost their only three close games this season, and it looked like it may be four in Thursday night's opening round game with Hiram. Statesboro led by as many as 13, only to see the 6th ranked Hornets storm back to take a 43-41 lead with less than two minutes to go.
The Blue Devils had missed four straight free throws, that could have put the game away, but were able to get the baskets when they needed it. Leslie Black tied the game with a layup with just over a minute to play. Jacobi Edenfield then came up with a loose ball, and cruised in for what proved to be the game winning basket with just over 30 seconds left in the game.
“We really needed this one tonight,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “Hiram is ranked in the state for a reason. We let them back in it, but we closed things out when we needed to. I think sometimes the kids wonder if they can win a close game after losing a few, so this win will hopefully give them confidence if we are in this position again.”
Neither team were very hot out of the gates. The Blue Devil defense gave Hiram fits in the first half. Zarion Griffin got hot late in the first quarter to help the Blue Devils to an 11-4 lead. Kobe Altman heated up in the second quarter with a pair of three pointers as Statesboro raced out to a 23-11 halftime lead.
“Our defense kept them off balance in the first half,” Hill said. “They are usually a pretty good three point shooting team, but we didn’t allow a three pointer in the first half.”
The Hornets showed their long distance ability on the second half. Hiram outscored Statesboro 14-2 at one point in the second half, as they grabbed a 34-31 lead on a three pointer by DeAndre Brown. Hiram ended up with six three pointers in the second half, including four by Jaylen Brown.
“They showed what kind of team they are in the second half, ”Hill said. “They got hot from outside so we had to switch from zone to man-to-man as they fought their way back in the game.”
Kobe Altman finished with 13 points in the game, 10 of those coming in the first half. Alman’s only basket of the second half was big though, as a three with 3:20 left cut the Hiram lead from four to one.
“Kobe had a good game for us,”Hill said. “Griffin played well too. We almost let them back in it by missing those free throws late, but we made some big plays down the stretch, and I’m really proud of the way we fought back.”
The win is the sixth straight for the Blue Devils, who improve to 7-5 on the season. Griffin led the way for Statesboro with 15 points, while Altman added 13. Brown led Hiram with 14 points. Up next Statesboro will take on Lifetime Christian Friday at 8:00.
In other games in the Gentlemens Classic Swainsboro beat Greenbrier 57-53, and Richmond Hill beat Lifetime Christian 59-38.
Game schedule for Friday will be Hiram vs. Greenbrier at 5:00, followed by Richmond Hill vs Swainsboro at 6:30.