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SEHS boys hoping for happy holiday in Savannah
SEHS logo

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON — South Effingham boys basketball coach Rico Campbell is hoping holiday cheer extends to cheers for the Mustangs on the basketball court.

SEHS is headed to Savannah to play in the Memorial Health Holiday Classic starting Thursday against Savannah High at 5:30 p.m. at the Johnson High School gym.

There are two eight-team boys divisions with winners advancing through the brackets for the championship showdown for each division on Saturday night.

The Mustangs (5-2) will compete in the Washington Square division with McIntosh County, Islands, Benedictine, Calvary, Memorial Day, Jenkins and Savannah High.

Statesboro High will play two games, starting in the consolation bracket.

“I feel like we’ll have a pretty decent chance to do well,” Campbell said. 

“We’re playing well right now. We’re playing good defense, holding people under 60 points and making our free throws.”

SEHS has been a surprise team in the area. The Mustangs won only three games a year ago, but already have five wins this season. They started the week with a four-game winning streak — the program’s longest since beginning the 2013-14 season with four straight victories, according to Internet site MaxPreps.

Improvement can be easily measured within this season. SEHS lost to Southeast Bulloch 67-58 in overtime on Nov. 19. 

Two weeks later, the Mustangs won 57-52.

“Last year, we had guys playing varsity for the first time,” Campbell said. 

“It makes a difference when you have everyone coming back.”

Campbell’s message of playing defense and sharing the basketball resonates clearer in his second year as head coach as well. 

South graduated leading scorer Andrew Butler (16 ppg.) but have picked up the offensive burden collectively. Senior Justice Mydell, a 6-foot-1 center, who played limited time because of an injury last season, is averaging 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds.

Pure shooter Gavin Hiatt averages 12.6 points. He had 22 points including six 3-pointers against Beach High — a Final Four team at state last season.

Campbell’s son Isaiah is a stat stuffer, averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals at point guard.

“There were a lot of games we were losing at the end last year, but now we’re finding ways to win,” said Campbell, whose squad held off Bluffton 53-51 on the road Dec. 8.

South beat Jenkins by four (57-53) and SEB by five (57-52).

 The Mustangs were 1-6 in games decided by four points or less a year ago.

“We’re excited about (the holiday tournament) because it will give us a preview of (potentially playing three straight days in) the region tournament,” Campbell said.