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Rebels turn to future after another solid season
Timmy Brown
Effingham County's Timothy Brown pursues an offensive rebound during a Feb. 23 playoff game against Langston Hughes. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD — A lot of things has to go right to win state tournament games but it doesn’t take much to see dreams derailed.

Ankle injuries to three key players, including leading scorer Keion Wallace, left Effingham County on uncertain footing heading into its first-round Class AAAAAA state basketball tournament game with Langston Hughes on Feb. 23.

And with Wallace sidelined for all but a few minutes, the Rebels saw their season end with a 51-44 loss to the visiting third-seed from Region 3.

ECHS finished the season with an 18-9 record, but a defeat at the buzzer to Statesboro for the Region 2-AAAAAA championship followed by a dance without Wallace against Hughes proved to be a double dose of February madness.

“We had a scoring drought, we had turnovers, that was the game right there. We just didn’t have enough scoring power,” said Rebels coach Jake Darling.

Wallace, the 2021 Region 2-AAAAAA Co-Player of the Year who averaged about 15 points a game, suffered his ankle injury Feb. 21. Starting center Jordan Goldwire was also playing with a bad ankle and starting small forward Timmy Brown sprained an ankle in the region championship game against Statesboro.

The Rebels made just one field goal during a second-half stretch of almost 13 minutes when a six-point lead (32-26) became a nine-point deficit (46-37).

ECHS’ 20 turnovers in the game didn’t help.

Goldwire finished with a team-high 11 points, but didn’t play much in the second half. Brown gave a typical hustling effort against Hughes before fouling out late in the game.

But Wallace was held scoreless. He started the game and came out after about two minutes and reentered in the second quarter for a minute, but just wasn’t right.

“Our best player was down for the count, but (staying close) showed we battled and some other players stepped up,” Darling said. “But when your leading scorer doesn’t score, it’s hard to win.”

The 44 points were the team’s second-lowest scoring output of the season. ECHS lost to May River 38-37 on Dec. 11.

Looking back, however, it was another strong season for the Rebels who have posted consecutive 18-win seasons.

This season, ECHS started a big run after the May River loss and won 15 of 16 games, including two overtime thrillers against Bradwell Institute and another against Statesboro.

The Rebels won 10 games against teams in their respective state tournaments.

Darling and the Rebels now point their attention to next season. They’ll lose four seniors — three-year starting point guard Caleb “Juice” Williams, career 1,000-point scorer Khiry Wallace and reserves Camdon Seckinger and Taylor Douberly.

But there’s still a strong nucleus returning with Keion Wallace, Brown, Goldwire, Ashley Thompson and Rashad Scott. All five earned all-region honors.

Reserves Hayden Eason, Jonah Strickland and Jeremiah Lee will be looking for additional playing minutes.

“(The offseason) is the most important time,” Darling said. “The offseason is when you put your work in. We have guys we’ll be looking at who will have to get in the weight room and back in the gym. … Next year, we’ll have a lot of our scoring returning so we’re hoping for good things again.”