The learning curve for the South Effingham Mustangs boys basketball team took a painful twist Friday night.
The Wayne County Yellow Jackets held off the Mustangs for a 59-43 non-region win in Jesup, dropping South Effingham to 1-1 on the year.
“We played one great quarter,” Mustangs coach Jason Keeler said.
The Mustangs trailed 26-14 at the half but outscored the Yellow Jackets 18-10 in the third to close the gap to 36-32.
“We came out in the first half and got intimidated,” Keeler said.
But holding Wayne County to 26 first-half points was just what the first-year coach was looking for from his team.
“They scored 80-plus points on South Effingham twice last year,” he said.
The Mustangs, however, couldn’t maintain the momentum built from the third quarter as the Yellow Jackets’ press began to take effect. South Effingham committed 24 turnovers on the night.
“Our youth and inexperience caught up to us,” Keeler said. “I can’t simulate that speed and athleticism in practice. They’re having to learn to adjust to the speed of the game.”
Keeler pointed out that three of his nine varsity players Friday night were playing middle school basketball a year ago. Eleven Yellow Jackets are either juniors or seniors, and Wayne County has been to the state playoffs for three straight years.
Keeler and the team watched the tape of the game on Saturday morning and he grew more optimistic with each reviewing.
“The first time you watch it, it looks like we can’t do anything right,” he said. “By the time you watch a third time, we were close to being in the right place. After all is said and done, I’m more pleased with Friday night’s game than I was originally.”
The Mustangs will host Hardeeville (S.C.) Tuesday and Bluffton (S.C.) on Friday night.