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BUILDING BLOCKS: Freshmen playing key roles for Rebels
Tyler Griffin hauls in a rebound for the Rebels on Saturday against South Effingham. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Effingham County's Khiry Wallace (11), shown during an attempt to block a shot against Islands last year, was a defensive stalwart against Benedictine on Thursday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Happy and hoping to contribute to their team during all four years of high school, Effingham County's  Khiry Wallace and Tyler Griffin are prepared to lead the charge and play off each other's strengths.

"It set in when I played first my game," Wallace said. "It's fun when you're playing with seniors and juniors but, playing with (Tyler), I know I'm going to be playing with him all four years, so I have to click with him more than everyone else."

"Starting as a freshman, it's good to see the game," Griffin added. "Coming back next year, you'll get better and better."

Wallace and Hunter been playing together since elementary school and they hope to return the 1-10 Rebels to their glory days. They learned fairly quickly after joining the varsity lineup, however, that there will be bumps and bruises along the way.

'It's kind of different from elementary and middle school," Wallace said. "The players are bigger. I have to get into the weight room and focus on getting bigger and stronger. It's way different from when I was (in middle school)."

"You have to work a little harder than you used to," Griffin said. "(In middle school), everyone was a little bit smaller. If you let up a little bit, the other team will get a basket."

Wallace, 6-foot-3, and Griffin, 6-foot-5, continue to enjoy a frequent height advantage but are still learning to play against more experienced opponents.

"The whole time we are running up and down the court, no stopping," Griffin said.

Despite the slow start to the season, Wallace remains excited about the future. He knows the past records of the teams that have hung banners in the gym and wants to experience that for himself.

"I think about it all the time," Wallace said prior to Saturday's 84-56 win over South Effingham. "Right now, we aren't looking so good. We need to win the next couple games so we can put a banner up there."

Wallace admitted South Effingham is the team he enjoys beating more than any other. He tallied 18 points against the Mustangs on Saturday. Griffin knocked in 25.

"There are two different sides (in Effingham County)," Wallace said. "We want to be the real Effingham."

Rebels head coach Jake Darling hopes Wallace, Griffin and the rest of his players will use their first victory as a springboard to bigger things.

"We take each game as a learning experience," Darling said. "This game, just like the other 10 we played,  is part of a process we are going through as a team. We got better against South Effingham. We gained some confidence.

"It is definitely a weight off our shoulders to get the first win."