SPRINGFIELD — The Effingham County boys basketball team moved to 11-3 after a 72-38 win over cross town foe South Effingham on Saturday.
Behind the strength of Keion Wallace, the Rebels had their way early and often with most of the freshman's 15 points coming in the first half.
Although he was coming off a slow night scoring against Richmond Hill on Friday, head coach Jake Darling was certain Wallace would have a big game.
"I expect that from him," Darling said. "I expect him to play hard. We are going to rely on him a lot.
“His mentality coming into this game was different."
It was a weekend to remember for the Rebels, who downed Richmond Hill 67-64 to move to 3-0 in Region 2-AAAAAA games. The Wildcats were unbeaten in region play and had lost just two games overall prior to the matchup.
The victories bolstered the Rebels’ confidence as they look ahead to the rest of their 2-AAAAAA slate.
"It was a good team win," Darling said about the South Effingham contest. "It's a big county rivalry. It's always good to win those games. Everybody came in and played well and filled their role the way they should have.
“We had to two big wins, with the other being against Richmond Hill. I'm happy, especially with our sophomores. Khiry started for us last year and he played every second for us that he could. He got his bumps and bruises last year.
“Caleb Williams and Miguel Allen thrive in their roles as defenders first. Caleb does a good job of directing the offense."
Darling is also enjoying the depth of his bench. With players like Bryce Rowse punishing opponents with his excellent shooting from beyond the arc, the Rebels are becoming a well-rounded team.
"One area we struggle with is three-point shooting," Darling said. "Naturally he can shoot the three. His role is to come in and shoot threes.
“We find spots for him to get in. He's not a ball handler yet but he's working on those things. It's definitely something we have in our arsenal where he can come in and knock down shots."
This early run of success, including breaking into a state poll at No. 10. was sparked during the summer when the coaching staff sat down with the upperclassmen and challenged them to not relive they trying season they endured the year before.
"From that moment, we put in the work,” Darling said. “We were in here two to three times a week, getting after it and putting shots up."
Armed with the work ethic and mental toughness needed to plow through their tough schedule, the Rebels are looking like the team to beat. Whereas most coaching prefer to take things slow, Darling doesn't mind looking ahead. He continues to have conversations about what they can achieve beyond region play.
"We definitely talk about it everyday," he said. "I don't mind speaking it into existence. I don't mind that at all.
“I also want them to be humble. We are not the best we can be yet. We still have to work to do to get better everyday.
“They know we have a big game against Brunswick Friday. So it's the fourth region game. We'll finish the first half of region play this week. We are trying to set ourselves up for success in the region tournament. We want to be the No. 1 seed going into the region tournament. We don't want to have any regrets at the end of the season."