By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Usually, you don’t have to convince basketball players to shoot.
Effingham County boys’ basketball coach Tramaine Aaron saw his point guard Lamar Roberts giving up on 3-pointers. Aaron told Roberts to keep shooting.
Saturday afternoon, Roberts shot down Grovetown.
The junior sank four 3-pointers, nailing three during a decisive 10-minute run, to lead the Rebels to a come-from-behind 55-49 victory over defending region champion Grovetown at the ECHS gym.
The Rebels (11-8, 6-2 Region 2-6A) won their fifth straight game and played their way among the top teams in the region – trailing only 8-1 Glynn Academy and 7-2 Grovetown.
Roberts’ shooting was clutch.
“At Richmond Hill (the third game of the season), Lamar came up to me saying ‘I don’t want to shoot, coach. I’m shooting air balls, I quit,’ ” Aaron remembered. “I told him, ‘You need to shoot that ball, I don’t care. People have to respect you as a shooter so you can use your quickness and speed.’ Confidence, that’s all he needed.”
Roberts missed forced shots just before the end of the first and second quarters, but buried two 3-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter as ECHS fought back from a 14-point deficit.
And with 4:32 left, Roberts swished another three putting the Rebels ahead for the first time in the game.
It was part of a 23-5 run during a 10-minute span when ECHS turned a 36-24 deficit into a surprising 47-41 lead.
The Rebels made their run with Meaz Cope, Joseph Polite and Roberts all coming off the bench and playing key second-half minutes.
Roberts led the team with 14 points, Polite added nine and Cope had two, but more importantly, the trio’s defense helped slow down the Warriors, who led 27-13 midway through the second quarter.
Aaron applauded the defensive effort which continued after victories over Lakeside (59-55) and Evans (63-60) during the week.
“It’s always about defense, one stop at a time,” Aaron said.
Last season, ECHS went 2-5 against Grovetown, Lakeside and Evans, winning twice against Evans during the regular season. Evans won the game that mattered the most, however, topping the Rebels in the first round of the region tournament to keep them from advancing to state.
“The confidence is different now than it was when we were down against Portal (early in the season). That’s what I point to,” Aaron said. “We’ve been in this situation but we’ve crumbled the first time. This time, we came together and finished the job.”
Long-range shooting threat Hayden Eason heated up during the week for ECHS. Eason paced the team with 16 points against Evans and had 11 against Lakeside. The senior added 10 points against Grovetown.
Polite and Cope both had 12 points apiece against Evans. Jordan Goldwire had a team-high 15 points against Lakeside, 10 against Evans and nine against Grovetown.
It was a rough week for Grovetown, which entered its Friday game against Glynn Academy with a 33-game winning streak in regular-season region games before losing to the Red Terrors and Rebels in less than 48 hours.
Grovetown won the Class 6A state championship in 2022 and went to the state semifinals last season.
The Warriors defeated ECHS 56-49 on Jan. 12 in Grovetown.
“We’re getting hot at the right time, but we still have work to do,” Aaron said. “It’s a testament to the team and the coaching staff for believing and buying into what we’re trying to do. This was a big week, but we made it a goal to win each day. We want to win in everything we do and we accomplished it this week.”
ECHS girls fall
It was a tough week for the Effingham County’s girls who lost all three games and had their losing streak reach eight games.
The Rebels (4-15, 0-8 Region 2-6A) lost to Grovetown 57-37. ECHS closed within nine 32-23 at the start of the third quarter but the Warriors regained momentum and stretched the lead to 20 later in the quarter.
Kyjana Jordan led the Rebels with 15 points. She had 19 points in a 55-47 loss to Evans on Friday.
ECHS lost to Lakeside 70-42 on Tuesday.
SEHS boys, girls drop three games
South Effingham senior point guard Elena Hairston made dramatic shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime to extend the game but the Mustangs lost to Brunswick 54-49 in double overtime on Jan. 25.
Hairston finished with 17 points. Olivia Collins had 12 on four 3-pointers.
Two days earlier, SEHS lost to Brunswick 59-45. Hairston had 13 points.
On Friday, the Mustangs lost to Lakeside 51-41 to drop to 7-15 overall, 4-5 in region play.
The South boys’ struggles continued with losses to Brunswick, 62-48 and 83-72, and 73-40 to Lakeside. The Mustangs (0-18) led the Pirates in the first quarter of the first game and were within six heading into the fourth quarter. Aidan Harris had 15 points and Corbin McGuire added 13.
In the second game with the Pirates, McGuire had 27 points and Harris 18.