By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
Effingham County’s boys played Brunswick three times last season and lost all three.
They lost both meetings with Brunswick during the 2018-19 season and all three the season before that.
And the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament championship game in 2017.
Nine straight. No one on ECHS’ current roster had ever experienced a varsity win against Brunswick.
Until Tuesday, Dec. 15.
The Rebels traveled to Brunswick, answered a big third-quarter run by the Pirates, found a way to generate offense in the fourth quarter without a point from scoring stalwarts Keion and Khiry Wallace and stunned previously undefeated Brunswick 55-49.
“It was a huge win,” ECHS coach Jake Darling said. “It’s a big turnaround for us and should give us confidence going forward.”
The Rebels (6-2) had been up and down. ECHS looked good in a 26-point victory over rival South Effingham on Dec. 11, but 24 hours later needed a fourth-quarter rally to defeat May River.
Before its current three-game winning streak, ECHS lost to Statesboro by 20. Before that, the Rebels defeated defending Class 2A state champion Swainsboro.
“Against Brunswick I was thinking, ‘What team are we going to be?’” Darling said.
“Resilient and resourceful” were the answers.
Keion Wallace led the way with 13 points, but ECHS would have been in trouble if defensive-minded Ashley Thompson hadn’t chipped in 12. Or Rashad Scott 10. Or Caleb Williams 8.
Thompson, Scott and Williams scored 19 of the team’s 20 fourth-quarter points to make sure a small lead never slipped away.
The Rebels led 17-11 after the first quarter and 23-21 at halftime, but Brunswick went on a 9-2 run midway through the third quarter and took a 30-27 advantage.
But ECHS fought back with an 8-2 spurt, culminated by Keion Wallace’s 3-pointer to end the third-quarter scoring.
“This is a tough region and there will be a lot of teams beating up on each other every night,” Darling said. “Beating Brunswick, puts us in that conversation (as a contender).”
Heading into the Christmas break, the top five teams in the region — Richmond Hill (8-0), Statesboro (5-1), Brunswick (5-1), Effingham County (6-2) and Glynn Academy (6-3) — have a combined 30-7 record.
“We’re the youngest team in the region, but we don’t want to be the ‘Wait until next year’ team,” Darling said.
ECHS will be back in action with two games at the Savannah Country Day Basketball Showcase during the holiday break. The Rebels will play McIntosh County Academy on Monday (Dec. 28) and St. Andrew’s on Tuesday (Dec. 29).
ECHS will make up a game with Southeast Bulloch on Wednesday (Dec. 30) at home and resume region play against Glynn Academy in Springfield on Jan. 5.