First Presbyterian Christian Academy suffered a 70-59 loss to a fully healthy Statesboro Blue Devil lineup Monday, the first night of the Devils’ annual Gentleman’s Classic tournament.
But the defending GISA state champions didn’t go down quietly. The Highlanders fell behind by double digits in three separate occasions and managed to close all of those gaps to at least five points.
“A team like that who’s gone to state is going to know how to get back in games,” Statesboro head coach Lee Hill said. “I don’t care what level they are. When you have shooters like they do, they won’t be out of games for very long.”
It was the Highlanders first loss of the season and snapped a 14-game winning streak back to last season.
Hill attributed much of the games success to the return of Daniel Cooper and Traveyon Burns after injuries. They played limited minutes and didn’t have the largest impact on the stat sheet (14 points combined), but Hill said having the pair back made the difference.
“Just their presence picks up everyone else’s game,” Hill said. “They brought up everyone tonight and that’s how it should be.”
Statesboro made its first three shots of the third quarter to go up 47-38, but even while trailing by nine with two and a half minutes left in the third quarter FPCA hit four of their next six shots on a 4-0 run to trail 51-46 going to the fourth quarter.
The game’s apex came with just under two minutes to play, when after leading by as many as nine in the fourth quarter FPCA came back again to cut the Statesboro lead — this time via back-to-back transition buckets off Statesboro miscues.
Now down 63-59, FPCA had a chance at a one-possession game for the first time since the 6:32 mark in the first quarter. However an errant pass by George Mitchell would fly out of bounds to give Statesboro possession, allowing Cameron Harvey to attack the basket and draw attention to himself — leaving Jordan Wright wide-open underneath for the easy dish.
“We attacked the paint whenever we could tonight,” Hill said. “They had a real tough 2-3 zone, so we had to break it up by attacking the basket.”
The next possession saw FPCA miss an easy shot at the rim, grab their own rebound and then miss again, giving Statesboro the ball back once again. Kirkland — who grabbed the initial board — found a streaking Burns down the floor with a football-like pass for the seemingly wide open lay-up.
However Burns was trailed close by Mitchell, who fouled Burns on the layup. Nearly parallel to the floor, Burns still had the balance to toss the ball off the glass and into the rim for two points to put Statesboro up 67-59 with 54 ticks left on the clock.
FPCA still had a chance for a three to make the game manageable, but a cross-court pass was stolen by Kirkland, forcing free-throws for Statesboro.
Statesboro was 4-6 after the game.