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Effingham boys, South Effingham girls look sharp in rivalry games
Gilbert Miller for the Effingham Herald Effingham County’s Rashad Scott gets inside the paint for a basket in last week’s victory over South Effingham in Guyton.

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Effingham County’s Ashley Thompson acknowledged the rivalry with South Effingham after the Rebels’ 75-46 win on Friday night, but pointed to the bigger picture.

Thirty-two straight wins over the Mustangs? Whoa, that’s a lot, Thompson said, but that wasn’t on the hosts’ minds.

“I like (the streak), but really we’re trying to win every game,” Thompson said. “It’s not about them, it’s about us.”

ECHS (13-6, 3-3 Region 2-6A) rebounded from a 20-point loss to Brunswick by beating South for the second time this season and extending a dominance over the Mustangs that goes back to 2007.

Thompson played a big role in the win Friday. He scored 20 points, mostly on layups and putbacks around the basket.

He had six points during a 12-0 second-quarter blitz that turned a 20-19 deficit into a 31-20 lead within 88 seconds.

The Rebels added another run – a 21-2 spurt during an eight-minute span of the second and third quarters – that turned the game into a runaway.

“Ashley plays his role and you know what you’re going to get from him every night,” ECHS coach Travis Priddy said. 

“He gets a lot of (easy) buckets. He was huge tonight. It’s that senior leadership. We played a lot better tonight. When we defend and share the ball, we’re a pretty good basketball team.”

For South (6-13, 0-7), the bad start of the weekend only got worse Saturday against defending state champion Grovetown. The Warriors, ranked the 17th best team in the country in the preseason by MaxPreps, rolled to a 94-26 win over the Mustangs.

A lack of height and the absence of a true point guard continued to haunt SEHS, which has lost nine straight games.

ECHS had a 54-23 advantage in rebounding, Mustangs coach Rico Campbell said. Grovetown compounded the SEHS’ rebounding problem by forcing numerous turnovers.

The Warriors’ athleticism discouraged the Mustangs early on before having a 45-2 run during a 17-minute span of the second, third and fourth quarters. 

“It’s a long haul and you have to trust the process,” said Campbell, whose squad won only three games last season. “That’s the defending state champion. We haven’t played in the state tournament. We haven’t won a region game. You have to keep things in perspective.”

SEHS girls win twice over weekend

South Effingham’s girls are following a winning template set by second-year head coach Alexus Parker.

“One of the biggest things we emphasize to the girls is to stay consistent,” Parker said. “We want to share the basketball, get good shots and play defense. Play our game. Do what we practice, do what we go over and don’t let (an opponent) make you do things we don’t do. We’re making progress.”

South (15-5, 6-1 Region 2-6A) had little problem getting past Effingham County 60-20 on Friday night and added an easier-than-expected 60-37 win over Grovetown on Saturday.

Gilbert Miller for the Effingham Herald South Effingham’s Elena Hairston heads towards the basket in last week’s victory over Effingham County in Guyton.

Against the Rebels, the Mustangs used a 19-0 first-quarter run to build a 19-4 lead. SEHS scored 27 straight points during a 13-minute span to balloon their advantage to 48-12 in the third quarter.

Shi’Asia House had 21 points. Kay’mar Griffin added 15.

ECHS (2-16, 0-6) has lost 11 straight games but Parker saw improvement in the Rebels.

“They’re young, but you can see they’re playing harder,” Parker said. “There’s progress in their program. From the first competition (a 64-25 SEHS win) to this last one, you can see growth.”

The Mustangs appear to be growing too. They were tested in a 52-49 win in their first appearance against Grovetown on Jan. 7.

This time, SEHS jumped out to a 15-4 lead during the opening seven minutes. Grovetown closed within three (26-23) during the opening minutes of the third quarter, but the Mustangs pushed their advantage back to nine by the end of the quarter and sealed the win with a 16-0 run in the final quarter.

Elena Hairston had 12 of her team-leading 15 points in the second half. Zakerria Hall added 14 points and Griffin, who grabbed her 500th career rebound in the first quarter, had 11 points.