By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
BRUNSWICK – South Effingham’s girls left the Region 2-6A basketball tournament Friday night with some consolation — at least they would still be playing at state.
The Mustangs, a No. 2 seed, lost the championship game to top-seeded Brunswick 57-31.
South, however, hosted the first round of the state tournament Feb. 21 against Lee County.
If the Mustangs win their first-round game, they will advance to the Sweet Sixteen against the winner of Lakeside, DeKalb-Rockdale County on Feb. 24 or 25.
But first things first. SEHS (20-7) must recover from a disappointing showing in the region championship game if they hope to be competitive moving forward.
“I think ultimately we didn’t fight (Friday night against Brunswick). We didn’t show up to the battle,” Mustangs coach Alexus Parker said.
“A lot (of the problems) came with timidness, over-thinking, the mental capacity rather than what we physically couldn’t do.”
SEHS’ third meeting with the defending region champions was anything but a charm.
Brunswick, the fifth-ranked Class 6A team in the state and possessor of a 19-game winning streak, built a 10-point lead in the first quarter.
Mustangs Laney Dobbs brought the team back almost single-handedly with three 3-pointers in the second quarter to cut the deficit to five, 23-18, at halftime.
But the Pirates, who defeated SEHS 61-39 and 51-43 during the regular season, were unfazed. Brunswick opened the second half on a 17-2 run.
Elena Hairston’s 3-point bank shot, just inside the half-court line to end the third quarter, pierced Brunswick’s lead to 13, 40-27, but the Mustangs didn’t make a field goal in the fourth quarter and the Pirates sailed away.
“I think in these types of games, it takes experience,” Parker said. “Brunswick has a good program and they’ve been here before. For a lot of us, it’s the first time we’ve been here and there’s a learning curve.
“You just go back to the drawing board. I feel like now we’ve gotten a taste of the bigger stage. It’s about understanding these are just games — they come with the title of state playoffs or region championship but at the end of the day, the game doesn’t change. Maybe the opponent, but not the game.”
ECHS boys, girls ousted at region
Effingham County’s boys were close but saw another agonizing nailbiter go against them in a first-round 34-32 loss to Evans on Feb. 14 to end the season.
During the season, the Rebels (17-9) had three losses by one point, one by two points and had a game against defending state champion Grovetown tied with less than two minutes left before losing by seven (60-53).
The ECHS girls, coming off a wild triple-overtime win against Evans in the play-in game, fell short against Grovetown 51-42 on Feb. 13 in their region quarterfinals.
The Rebels (4-22) led Grovetown 30-26 entering the fourth quarter, a huge turnaround after losing to the Warriors 57-17 and 70-33 during the regular season.
Kyjana Jordan led ECHS with 29 points in the region tournament upset bid.