By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON -- Just a few feet of separation changed some of the dynamics of the Effingham County-South Effingham boys basketball game Friday night.
Rebels coach Jake Darling looked at an empty seat along his team bench, then looked over to Mustangs first-year coach Jason Napier. “Shouldn’t you be sitting here?” Darling said he thought before the game.
Napier, Darling’s long-time assistant and close friend, understood the flashback.
“It was a good experience to coach against him. Obviously, odd,” Napier said.
The oddity, however, didn’t change what’s become a predictable result. ECHS continued its dominance of SEHS with a 61-35 victory for its 27th straight win in the series between the two programs.
According to high school Internet site MaxPreps, the Rebels haven’t lost to the Mustangs since an 86-82 setback on Jan. 6, 2007.
With Napier on the sidelines and South winning three of its first four games of the season, Mustang fans hoped for a reversal of fate in the county rivalry.
Ten minutes into the game, the Rebels squashed that notion.
Keion Wallace scored the game’s first seven points and older brother Khiry Wallace had a 10-point scoring flurry in a 2 ½-minute span to shoot ECHS into a 19-2 advantage early in the second quarter.
The Rebels led 32-13 at halftime, 48-27 after three quarters and led by 28 (56-28) in the fourth quarter as the reserves looked to add to the Mustangs’ misery.
Keion Wallace led all scorers with 17 points and Khiry Wallace added 16. Rashad Scott came off the bench to score 10.
Andrew Butler paced SEHS with 11.
Disappointed with the loss, Napier still saw the bigger picture for his team which won only seven games last season.
“There was a lot of hype for this game,” he said. “Hype means expectations and that’s a good thing.”
From the adjacent lockerroom, Darling saw the Rebels bounce back from a lackluster 69-49 loss to Statesboro on Dec. 8. Three days earlier, ECHS had its best effort in a 57-50 win over defending Class 2A state champion Swainsboro.
“I think (against Statesboro) we were just playing on fumes and we just didn’t show up,” Darling said. “We showed them the film of what a lack of effort looks like and tonight there was more effort.”
Keion Wallace said the Rebels have readjusted their goals and expectations remain high.
“After losing to Statesboro, we had to come back. Our goal is to go 11-1 in the region,” he said.
Of course, that would mean beating South Effingham for a 28th consecutive time when the teams tip-off again Jan. 22 in Springfield.
“(The streak is) just going to put more pressure on the next time we play them,” Darling said. “It keeps building.”
On Saturday, the Rebels defeated May River 36-32 and the Mustangs beat Bryan County 61-55.