By JOSH AUBREY
STATESBORO — The Statesboro Blue Devils looked like they were in trouble Friday night against New Hampstead, and in jeopardy of dropping their region opener, but a 24-2 run in the second quarter helped propel the Blue Devils to an impressive 58-38 victory.
The Phoenix won the region tournament last year, and were one of the reasons the Blue Devils had to hit the road in the second round of the state tournament, where they lost to Dutchtown.
“Our players talked about how they beat us on our home court, and forced us to play the second round of the state on the road,” said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “They were picked to win the region this year, so I felt like we would be ready and focused.”
The Blue Devils dug themselves a hole in the first quarter, falling behind 16-7. Playing without starters Jaylon Hicks and Joe Burns for most of the first half, the Blue Devils turned up the defensive pressure, and the Phoenix started to fall apart.
“We felt like we really needed to adjust our defense with the personnel we had in the game,” said Hill. “We pressed when we had a chance, and they started turning the ball over.”
A Zarion Griffin layup with 4:48 left in the second quarter gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game at 17-16. The run would continue with Griffin scoring 10 of his game high 23 points in the second, and Statesboro would end up outscoring New Hampstead 24-2 to take a 31-18 halftime lead.
“We picked up the tempo, as well as turning up the defensive pressure,” said Hill. “They like to slow it down, but we forced them to pick it up.”
The Blue Devils continued to apply the pressure, and the Phoenix continued to falter in the second half. A Kobe Altman putback was followed by a steal and a thunderous dunk by Jaylon Hicks to put Statesboro up 46-31 at the end of the third.
The Blue Devils were able to increase the lead in fourth by continuing to play well defensively, and take high percentage shots, as they would go on to win by 20 points.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Hill. “You have to be able to win at home, especially in a region game. We know it’s going to be tough on the road in our region.”
Griffin led the way for Statesboro with 23 points, while Devin Mikell added 13. New Hampstead was led by Sam Brown with 10 points.
The Blue Devils improve to 13-3 on the season and 1-0 in region play. Up next, Statesboro travels to Swainsboro Saturday night.
It may have taken a half to get things rolling, but when they did, the Statesboro girls showed why they are currently ranked No. 2 in the state. The Blue Devils pulled out to a 33-20 halftime lead against New Hampstead, and then put it in overdrive as they rolled past the Phoenix 62-25
“We came out a little flat in the first half, despite jumping out to an early lead,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Seir. “We talked about our lack of defensive intensity in the first half, and played a lot better in the second half.”
Lacy Robins would have been a great fantasy basketball pickup Friday as she stuffed the stat line, finishing with 26 points, 12 steals, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“She didn’t shoot the ball too well in the first half,” Seir said. “She really got her offensive game going in the second half, and played pretty well defensively the whole night.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to an 11-2 lead, and looked like they were going to run away with things as they pulled out to a 19-5 lead at the end of the first quarter,
In the second quarter the Phoenix fought their way back, and cut the lead to 23-16 on a layup by Raven Dunham. Statesboro was able to come back though, and took a 33-20 halftime lead.
The Blue Devils turned up the heat, and started draining threes and making layups in the second half, as they outscored New Hampstead 20-2 in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter things were just about as bad as the Blue Devils outscored the Phoenix 9-3, for a second half thumping of 29-5.
Robins led the way for Statesboro with 26 points, which included six three pointers. Alexis Ward added 11 points. New Hampstead was led by L.T. McLaughlin with 7 points.
Statesboro improves to 16-0 on the season, up next they travel to Swainsboro Saturday for a 6:00 start.