By Donald Health
Special for the Effingham Herald
SAVANNAH — Local basketball teams stayed busy during the holidays. The Effingham County boys and South Effingham boys and girls each played two games at the Savannah Country Day Basketball Showcase.
The Effingham County girls were also in action with two regular-season makeup games during the break.
“A tournament like this provided a learning experience,” SEHS boys coach Jason Napier said. “We’re still learning. It’s like I told them at the beginning of the season. It’s not scheme, it’s how you have to play — taking care of the basketball, being calm in stressful situations, learning how to close out quarters, learning how to close out games. That’s the difference.”
The Mustangs (5-6) lost to Calvary 65-60 and beat Bethesda 52-50 and both games came down to the end. SEHS had a three-point advantage with six minutes to go against Calvary, but surrendered a 12-2 run down the stretch.
Against Bethesda, the Mustangs saw a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate, but two free throws by Andrew Butler tied the game in the final minute and Ameer Pollack’s tip-in with 17 seconds left provided the difference.
Butler finished with 23 points. He had 19 against Calvary.
Sophomore Devin Hallman, getting extra playing time with several starters out, had 16 points against Calvary.
The Effingham County boys split their two games in the showcase.
The Rebels (8-3) lost to Benedictine 57-50, then beat McIntosh County Academy 60-27.
ECHS let an 11-point first-half lead get away, fell behind by nine in the fourth quarter before tying the game at 48. But in the final 2:34, the Cadets outscored the Rebels 9-2 for the win.
“It was a region-quality type game, fortunately it wasn’t a region loss. It opened our eyes to some things. We need our bench to step up,” said ECHS coach Jake Darling, whose starters produced 49 of the team’s 50 points.
ECHS used a 30-1 run to overwhelm McIntosh the next day. The Rebels held the Buccaneers without a field goal for 17 minutes and 38 seconds and the 27 points allowed tied their fewest since giving up 26 to Metter (79-26 win) on Dec. 20, 2014.
ECHS also surrendered just 27 to Bradwell Institute during a 57-27 victory last season.
Keion Wallace led the team with 23 points against BC and 18 against McIntosh.
The South Effingham girls (5-7) lost to Hilton Head Christian 56-26 and Savannah Country Day 40-26. The Mustangs were without leading scorer and rebounder Melanie Zeigler for most of the action. Zeigler suffered a sprained ankle against Hilton Head and did not play against SCD.
“With Melanie out, I think everyone felt they had to step up a bit,” said SEHS coach Jenifer Hall about her team’s improved play within 24 hours. “We used the tournament to (spread out) playing time and we tried to capitalize on that.”
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they couldn’t shake the third-quarter blues. Undefeated Hilton Head Christian used a 15-0 third-quarter run to break open a 29-17 game.
SCD had a 13-0 spurt in the third quarter (which carried into the fourth quarter) to expand a 16-15 lead.