Effingham County High School

Rebels respond after loss to Statesboro

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February 17, 2016

By Patrick Donahue

The wake-up call for the Effingham County boys basketball team may have come at just the right time, if you ask coach Jake Darling.- The Rebels, who entered the Region 3-AAAAA tournament as the No. 1 seed after a perfect 13-0 league record, beat Ware County 80-74 Friday at Camden County High School to claim the region’s No. 3 seed. Statesboro rallied from seven points down with two minutes to go to stun the Rebels 63-61 in Thursday’s semifinals. The loss also snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Rebels. Effingham will open the state Class AAAAA playoffs tonight at Richmond Academy (21-5). “We’ve just got to get better at what we do, Darling said. “(Thursday) night we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing. It allowed us to refocus. Against the Gators on Friday, Jaden Rodriguez connected on six 3-point shots, and the Rebels sank 11 as a team. They also went 28-of-36 from the free throw line, and DeShaun Wilkenson was 11-of-12. The senior guard led the way with 26 points, and Rodriguez tallied 22. Rashad Griffin added 11 points, P.J. Brown and Liam Lanaghan each had seven points, Cody Hilbert added six points and Kha’leed Stapleton had one point. “We definitely knew it was going to be a challenge to come back from (Thursday) night, Darling said. “It was kind of a heartbreaker. But we have been preaching to them about complacency, and I think we got complacent a little bit. An early Ware County run erased a five-point Rebels lead and put the Gators in front 18-15. That prompted Darling to call a timeout. The Rebels’ recent schedule may have played against them, since they had just two games in 14 days prior to the region tournament. “We didn’t warm up well, Darling said. I had to call a timeout early to reel them back in and telling them we’re playing a game. It’s been weird the last three or four weeks. We’re just playing Friday, Friday, and Thursday. It’s just getting back into that flow. It’s hard to explain. It’s the mental part we’ve been trying to get across. Rodriguez drained three 3s in the second quarter, including one from nearly 28 feet, as the Rebels took a 35-34 lead at halftime. A technical foul to start the second half helped the Gators go back in front 60-55. But another long 3 from Rodriguez keyed a 15-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, a streak capped with Wilkenson taking Brown’s lob off the glass and slamming it home. The Rebels also converted eight consecutive foul shots in that stretch. “We didn’t start the first half off the way we wanted to, Darling said, “but we finished the way we wanted to. Wilkenson had 22 points in the loss to Statesboro, and Rodriguez accounted for 14. Griffin and Brown had eight points each, Hilbert scored five and Stapleton chipped in four points. “We’ve got to adjust to the speed of the playoffs. It’s a lot different, Darling said. “These teams that have been playing for four games have seen it and I don’t think we were ready for it, how physical it was.

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