By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – By following their coach’s halftime words to calm down, South Effingham’s girls produced a big third quarter and could relax in the fourth quarter Friday night on the road against rival Effingham County.
The Mustangs broke open a close game with 21 points in the third quarter and added 23 more in the fourth quarter to beat the Rebels, 68-37.
Three days earlier, SEHS produced one of its biggest wins of the season by knocking off Richmond Hill 39-31. The Mustangs had lost 13 straight to the Wildcats, including a 31-22 setback on Dec. 7, 2021.
“One of our goals this year was to beat some of the teams we haven’t beaten in years and Richmond Hill was one of those teams,” SEHS coach Alexus Parker said.
The victory snapped a six-game losing streak and gave proof the team could beat one of the perennial region contenders.
Friday night, Parker said her squad looked a little sluggish during the first half against Effingham County, a team the Mustangs beat 46-15 six weeks ago.
But junior guard Kay’mar Griffin stepped up and scored 15 of her season-high 22 points after intermission.
Leading only 24-17 at half, the Mustangs ran off nine straight points during the first three minutes of the third quarter and had seven straight to end the quarter.
Suddenly, the seven-point advantage was 21, 45-24.
“It seemed like we were out of sync,” Parker said. “We were rushing a lot of things. We had a lot of unforced turnovers. I just told them we need to calm down and play our game.”
SEHS (9-9, 3-5 Region 2-AAAAAA) shared the offensive load. Elena Hairston came off the bench to score 15 points. Laney Dobbs, who had a team-leading 14 points against Richmond Hill, added 13 points and Zakerria Hall had 10.
For Effingham County, coach Monica James has seen this movie before – spurts of good play surrounded by spurts of not-so-good play. The Rebels, aided by Mallory Johnson’s hot shooting, reeled off a 9-2 run to end the second quarter, trimming a 14-point deficit to seven, 24-17.
But ECHS failed to make a field goal during a dismal first quarter and couldn’t build on its momentum from the second quarter and scored just seven points in the third quarter.
“We have not played a complete game all season,” Rebels second-year coach Monica James said. “I keep telling them until we play a complete four quarters, we’re going to keep getting these results.”
ECHS, which starts three freshmen, lost its fourth straight game and dropped to 3-12 overall, 0-8 in Region 2-AAAAAA play.
Johnson finished with a team-high 17 points, 10 in the second quarter. Jania Taylor had 10 of her 11 points in the second half.
South plays at Statesboro on Jan. 25 before meeting New Hampstead on the road on Friday.
ECHS travels to Brunswick on Jan. 25, then hosts Glynn Academy on Friday.