By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – South Effingham wanted to set a fast pace in its season-opener against visiting Southeast Bulloch.
The visiting Gators countered Saturday night by taking that pace up a notch.
South couldn’t keep up with SEB during an 88-62 loss, making Mustangs coach Rico Campbell reassess his team’s style of play.
“Even though, as a coach, you want to play a certain way, when you go on the court and it doesn’t work, you have to go to something else,” Campbell said. “We wanted to press and put pressure on people, but they were getting easy layups. It’s good we played this game. We got exposed, now we have to fix it.”
South (6-19 last season) suffered from a variety of problems – sloppy ball handling, an inability to box out on the boards and poor shot selection.
Campbell hinted that falling back into a man-to-man defense in the halfcourt might help.
Against SEB, the Mustangs trailed 14-3 less than five minutes into the game. The deficit grew to 18, 44-26, in the final minute of the second quarter.
It was 51-33 with 5:35 to go in the third quarter when South put together an impressive run. Nelson Rivera’s 3-pointer began a 12-2 run and the Mustangs crept within eight, 53-45.
But SEB, a squad that advanced to the Class 4A Sweet Sixteen last season, responded with an offensive barrage set up by its defense. The Gators made five layups, two fueled by steals which led to uncontested shots, to score 10 points in less than two minutes and their lead jumped back to 18 (63-45).
“Our bigger guys have to get tougher to stop people driving the lane and on offense, we can’t have everyone going rogue and doing their own thing,” Campbell said. “We have to play like a team.”
Eleven different Mustangs scored, led by Will Harlin’s 18 points. Hayden Lloyd had nine points and Rivera eight.
SEB’s Zach Jones paced all scorers with 27 points. Teammates Brendan O’Dowd and Trey Jones added 18 and 15 points respectively.
“This is Game 1, we have time to work on (getting better),” Campbell said. “The last two or three years, we haven’t been playing much defense and we’ve been giving up a lot of points. You just have to (have a mindset to play defense) and realize your defense is going to create offense. In spurts we did it, but we didn’t do it the whole game.”
SEHS boys will be back in action Dec. 1 to host Camden County.