Glenn Hills stormed into the Devil’s Den to steal away a victory back in December, but Statesboro got its payback with a 53-49 win in Thursday’s Region 3-AAAA Tournament semifinal.
The Spartans (24-3) held a small lead for most of the game, but the Devils
(25-3) broke off a 20-9 run over the final nine minutes to claim the victory.
With the win, Statesboro moves on to play Butler at 8:30 p.m. tonight for the region title. The winner will claim a No. 1 seed in the Class AAAA state tournament. The Spartans will face Liberty County in the consolation match.
Aubrey McCrae led the Spartans with 15 points, connecting three times from behind the arc.
“We knew that we had a tough game on our hands (against Glenn Hills),” Statesboro coach Lee Hill said. “We had to fight all the way, but we got it done. I think that we still have plenty in the tank and that we’ll come out ready to play in the championship game.”
Trailing 40-33 in the final seconds of the third quarter, senior forward Jonathan Taylor got the Devils’ rally started.
Taylor wrestled away an offensive rebound and converted a put-back bucket, then completed the three-point
play after he was fouled to make it a 40-36 Glenn Hills lead after three quarters.
Zaquavian Smith (14 points) brought Statesboro the rest of the way back, nailing a pair of free throws and a midrange jumper in the first minute of the fourth quarter. O’Aaron Ware drove the lane to give Statesboro its first lead since the first quarter. With 3:16 to play, a short jumper by Alex Simmons but the Devils up for good.
The Spartans stayed within 51-49 with 17.6 seconds to play, but Smith slipped behind the Glenn Hills press for an easy layup to push the Statesboro lead to two possessions.
Nequan Turner – who scored 15 on the night – raced down the court on lofted up a 3, but it bounced harmlessly off the rim and Yakeem Coleman secured the rebound with less than four seconds left to seal the win.
“Our kids really wanted this one,” Hill said. “Glenn Hills came down here early and got us. Our guys wanted another chance at them. Glenn Hills is a great team, but we wanted to prove that we could beat them.”
Simmons led the Devils with 14 points. Smith pitched in 12 and Coleman and Ware each netted nine points.
The Spartans began the game on a 6-0 run, but Statesboro quickly responded to keep things close.
A pair of rattled in 3’s from McRae and Turner early in the second half pushed the Spartan’s advantage as high as 33-24, but Statesboro clamped down and allowed just three field goals the rest of the way.