By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON -- South Effingham’s basketball season opened for real Wednesday night and both the Mustang boys and girls put on performances that made the next few months under first-year coaches Rico Campbell and Alexus Parker look fun.
In an exciting, see-saw affair, the SEHS boys lost to Southeast Bulloch 85-83 in overtime, while the girls had little problem exterminating the Yellow Jackets 69-15.
The boys’ nightcap provided an emotional rollercoaster for the Mustangs’ big home crowd.
“What I learned is we have a lot of heart and we’re going to compete,” Campbell said. “It was a good game for both teams. I think we brought out the best in Southeast Bulloch and they brought out the best in us.”
The game had 13 lead changes and nine ties. It was knotted after the first quarter, halftime, at 74-74 to end regulation and was 83-83 with 18 seconds left before Collin Smith’s short jumper settled the night.
The Mustangs peppered the ball around the rim on their final possession but couldn’t get anything to fall as the buzzer sounded.
SEHS rode big games from Devin Hallman and Gavin Hiatt. Hallman had 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and Hiatt added seven of his 19 in the fourth.
Hallman and Hiatt combined for all the scoring as SEHS opened the fourth quarter on a 12-0 burst to build a 60-50 advantage.
But behind 17 fourth-quarter points from AJ Williams, SEB rallied from a nine-point deficit (72-63) with two minutes left in regulation to force overtime.
Williams’ scoring flurry (a game-high 35 points) didn’t surprise Campbell.
“I’ve known AJ since third or fourth grade,” Campbell said. “He played on my AAU team. He’s a good player and he really carried that team in the clutch.”
But, when things looked bleak in overtime, the Mustangs came up clutch. Trailing 83-78 with 33 seconds left, Hiatt sank a three and Andrew “Dewey” Butler had a steal and a layup to tie the game.
Butler finished with 17 points.
But the wild, wide-open game ultimately came down to free-throw shooting. SEHS made only 9-of-21 from the line. SEB was 19-of-25.
“We have to work on a lot of stuff -- finishing layups, playing when you’re tired,” Campbell said. “Our free throws suffered a little so we have to work on that.”
SEHS girls roll
The SEHS girls game didn’t have nearly the drama of the boys game, thanks to Kay’Mar Griffin.
The junior guard scored all of her game-high 20 points in the first half and was a key component in the Mustangs’ 25-2 run in the first and second quarters which turned a 12-6 lead into a very comfortable 37-8 advantage.
SEHS outscored the Yellow Jackets 17-0 in the fourth quarter and 30-4 overall in the second half.
Shi’Asia House added 11 points and Elena Hairston had 10. Laney Dobbs and Paris Kelley each had eight points.