By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
SEHS girls’ basketball makes county’s lone run to state
Alexus Parker
South Effingham girls basketball coach Alexus Parker has instructions for freshman Justine Nevel (23) and Hayden Johanson (22) and Elena Hairston looks on during a timeout in the Mustangs' Region 2-6A consolation game against Lakeside Evans last Friday. Lakeside won 51-36. (Donald Heath for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

BRUNSWICK – A big night from senior guard Elena Hairston put South Effingham’s girls back on the biggest basketball stage – the state tournament.

“(Hairston) didn’t want her high school career to end in Lakeside and she did everything she could to lead us to a victory,” said SEHS coach Alexus Parker about Hairston’s 29 points in a 48-42 victory over Grovetown in the Region 2-6A quarterfinals on Feb. 12.

The Mustangs (9-19) finished fourth in the region tournament and for the second straight year will be the county’s lone boys or girls’ team in the state playoffs.

South will play Region 3 champion Woodward Academy (22-5) in Atlanta on Feb. 20 or Feb. 21. Teams had not finalized details of time and date as of Feb. 18.

“The state playoffs are always interesting depending where you go,” Parker said. “Last year, we were home but we weren’t able to take advantage. This will be a good experience for our young team. I’m going to coach to win and we have to play to win. That has to be our mentality.”

As the lone senior in the starting lineup, Hairston shoulders the leadership and has had three 20-point games down the stretch while recently topping the career 1,000-point mark along with 500 career rebounds and 500 career assists.

Her effort against Grovetown tied her single-game scoring mark of 29 points she set in a 70-30 win over Evans on Jan. 13.

Hairston was the dominant scorer in the quarterfinal win, but she’s getting increased help from an improving group consisting of two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. They’ve given the region’s toughest teams struggles.

During the regular season, South fell by one, 45-44, to first-place Glynn Academy and took defending region champion Brunswick to double overtime before falling 54-49.

The Mustangs again proved to be pesky in the semifinals, falling behind 14-1 in the first quarter to Glynn, then fighting back and getting within eight, 40-32, heading into the fourth quarter before losing 60-45. Sophomore Hayden Johanson had a career-high 21 points to lead SEHS.

Two days later in the consolation game, South trailed Lakeside by 15 points in the first half, but trimmed the deficit to six in the final minute of the third quarter before the Panthers pulled away 51-36.

This time, junior Tyra Guyton had the hot hand for the Mustangs with 10 points during the team’s 19-10 run.

“We talk about being consistent all the time,” Parker said. “Every game, you have to bring your contribution. It’s been a different person every game for us so it’s hard to find that groove. We’re still trying to get through those growing pains.”