In front of yet another overflow crowd, the Effingham County High school basketball teams gave the home crowd plenty to cheer about Wednesday night.
The Lady Rebels fought past Thomas County Central 59-53 with another fourth-quarter rally, and the No. 2-ranked Rebels boys again had little problem with an 84-52 blowout of Creekside. With the wins, the Effingham County boys and girls earned berths in the Class AAAAA state semifinals, to be played Saturday at Kennesaw State University.
The Lady Rebels (26-5) will play Miller Grove (25-5) at 4 p.m., and the Effingham boys (27-4) will meet Gainesville (22-9) at 5:30 p.m.
Kyesha Lewis had 21 of her game-high 23 points in the second half, and she scored 13 points in the fourth quarter alone.
“This is great,” said the sophomore forward.“ We wanted to drop the crowd’s jaw, and that’s what we did. We came here to go perfect at home.”
With Effingham trailing 45-41 in the fourth quarter, Lewis buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. She drained another 3 with 2:06 to go, putting the Lady Rebels in front 50-49.
The Lady Rebels, who trailed by eight to start the second in their second round game against McIntosh, were seven points behind Wednesday night with 58 seconds to play in the third quarter.
“I’m never going to count us out,” said ECHS girls coach Curtis Stevens. “They’re going to give you everything they’ve got until the final buzzer.”
Jakayvea Akins had 16 points, and Eboni Hicklen added 14 points in the win. Chelsea McIntyre led four Lady Yellow Jackets in double figures with 14 points.
Effingham’s boys didn’t get into gear until the midway mark of the first quarter against Creekside. But once the Rebels got rolling, they overpowered Creekside.
Jakeenan Gant had 23 points and his back-to-back dunks in the fourth quarter, including a breakway windmill slam, punctuated the rout. Gant helped spark a 16-0 run in the second period that gave the Rebels a 38-8 bulge.
By then, Effingham’s appearance in the Final Four was a fait accompli.
“It means a lot,” Gant said of the semifinals berth. “We’ve worked hard for this every day.”
Ryan Wilkins had 15 points, and Jay Wright added 10 as Effingham carried a 67-35 lead into the fourth quarter, prompting the mercy rule clock.
“I’m proud of us because we’re great basketball players, and we’ve had a great year up to this point,” said ECHS boys coach Donnie Arrington. “But I’m telling you, we’ve got the best kids in the world. They’re good people. They put in so much time and doing so many things, they deserve everything they got.”
For more, see Friday’s Herald.