Under a barrage of 3-pointers and offensive rebounds from the Ware County Gators, the Effingham County Rebels’ lead slipped away.
The Gators trailed by as much as nine points in the first half but stormed past the Rebels for a 65-51 win in a Region 3-AAAA basketball game Friday night.
“We didn’t answer the bell in the second half,” Rebels coach Travis Dickey said. “We did everything we needed to do to win the first half and did next to nothing in the second half. It was like two different teams.”
The Rebels (2-8, 0-2 region) fell behind 7-3 early, but Perry Herbert’s hot hand carried Effingham to a 14-10 lead. Herbert had all 14 of the Rebels’ first-quarter points, burying four 3-point shots and adding a layup while the Gators missed their last seven shots and were scoreless for the final 5:17 of the period.
“Perry’s been the scoring for us,” Dickey said. “If our offense is going to go, it’s got to go through Perry.”
Herbert was fouled on a 3-point attempt and sank two foul shots to stretch the lead to 25-16 with 3:47 before halftime, and the Rebels took a 29-24 advantage into intermission.
But Effingham had just one basket — Daryl Wright’s putback — in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Marquis Maddox tied the game 31-31 on a layup, and Steven Tarpley answered with a fallaway jumper with 3:19 to play.
Jimmy Gaskins, however, opened a volley of 3s from the Gators, hitting with 3:08 to go, and Maurice Malone’s 3-pointer at the 2:06 mark gave Ware County (7-4, 1-0) a 37-35 lead. The Gators never trailed again.
Jed Thigpen added another 3 and Malone sank another 3-point shot and converted all three free throw attempts after getting fouled on a 3-point try, putting the Gators in front 48-39. Jonathan Duff’s 3 just before the buzzer brought the Rebels back within six points.
The Rebels got no closer the rest of the way, as the Gators opened the fourth quarter with three consecutive baskets in the paint.
Herbert, who had 18 first-half points, was held scoreless in the second half.
“We didn’t play very hard,” Dickey said. “They put some pressure on us in the backcourt. We handled it in the first half. We just didn’t execute fundamentally.
“We worked a great deal in trying to sharpen our offense,” Dickey said of the holiday break practices. “In the second half, we didn’t execute our plan. We didn’t run our plays. We tried to freelance.”
Having the lead at the half against one of the region’s better teams, in his estimation, was encouraging to Dickey. But letting the lead slip away and the team’s play in the second half was frustrating.
“A loss like this hurts more than a blowout,” he said, “because you know if you take care of your own business, you had a shot to win it. We didn’t play very hard or very smart in the second half. I don’t really know why.”
Gaskins led the Gators with 16 points and Cecil Tanner added 11. Wright finished with 12 points for the Rebels, who also got six points apiece from Tarpley and Marquel Manior, five from Nolan Spake and four from Duff.
The Rebels also were 13 of 25 from the free throw line.