The Statesboro Lady Blue Devils shot less than 50 percent from the free throw line and less than 20 percent from the three-point line, but still had a shot to win the game in the end.
Lacy Robins' 3-point attempt as time expired hit off the back of the rim and fell to the ground — as did many members of the Blue Devils team — as the season came to a close with Veterans knocking Statesboro out of the state tournament 49-47.
“I just told the kids I thought we played hard, and played a pretty good game out there,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Seier. “We struggled again at the line, and that really hurt us. We had our best player on the line late in the game with a chance to win, and that’s all you want.”
The Blue Devils held a 47-46 lead with less than 25 seconds remaining in the game. Robins had a chance to extend the lead to three but missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. The Warhawks took a 48-47 lead with 18 seconds left on a layup by Zykeria Jenkins.
Robins then missed a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, but Jamiah Jones was able to tie up Stacie Jones and the Blue Devils got the ball back on the jump ball arrow. On the proceding inbounds play Sarah Ellis forced the pass to Jones who was tripled teamed, the ball was deflected back to Ellis, who was standing out of bounds, and Veterans took over.
Statesboro fouled the Warhawks Ansley Miranda who made the first free throw, but missed the second. The Blue Devils rebounded the ball with just over six seconds to play, and got the ball to Robins who had an open look at a three pointer from the elbow that hit off the backboard, then the rim, then the floor, ending the Blue Devils season.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Seier said. “We are a young team and we should be able to learn from this, and I think we will be back. Veterans is a young team too, so I wouldn’t be surprised of we run into them again next year.”
The game started slow, but both teams finally found a rhythm and the first quarter ended in a 10-10 tie. The Blue Devils opened a 20-12 lead in the second on back to back baskets inside by Baylee Roberts and Destiny Hartwell. Veterans then went on a 15-0 run paced by a few open three pointers, and a couple inside baskets by Jones, who finished the game with 18 points. Veterans led 31-24 at the half.
In the second half the Blue Devils switched from zone defense to man to man, and started to create turnovers. A Robins three pointer gave Statesboro a 36-35 lead with 3:15 left in the third quarter. They would not trail again until Veterans took the lead with
less than 20 seconds to go in the game. The Blue Devils extended their lead to 42-29 at the end of the third.
“We were afraid of their big girl so we started off playing zone defense,” Seier said. “I wish we would have gone to man to man earlier in the first half, as it seemed to give them problems, and they had a lot less open shots.”
The game would go back and forth in the final quarter. Veterans tied the game briefly at 42-42 on a three pointer by Miranda, but Robins quickly answered with a three to give Statesboro a 45-42 lead. That would be the final field goal for the Blue Devils who went 2-of-5 from the line in the final three minutes of the game.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight, but I thought we made up for that with hustle,” Seier said. “I felt like we got to most every loose ball, and there is no doubt our kids played hard the whole game.”
Statesboro was led by Robins with 18 points, while Jones and Roberts both chipped in with six points a piece. Stacie Jones led the way for Veterans with 18 points, while Madison Perez had 12 points on four three pointers, all of which came in the first half.
Statesboro ends the season with a record of 25-4 and graduate only one senior from this year’s squad.