Lakeside High School's girls basketball program's best season ended Saturday at Statesboro High School.
Statesboro had a tough night on offense, but fought off the feisty Panthers to win 45-29 during the first round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA state playoffs at the Devils' Den.
Blue Devils sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins racked up 13 points and secured 16 boards, pushing Statesboro past its one-and-done showing in last season's state tournament.
"There were some people in foul trouble, so I tried to step up," Jenkins said.
The Devils were clicking early as they raced to a 9-0 lead in the opening 3:35 of the game. A pair of 3-pointers by Danielle Hendrick (7 points) would help stretch the opening run to 15-0, and only a Bria Baker layup with 19 seconds on the clock would get the Panthers on the board in the first quarter.
The Devils' offense ground to a halt as they were unable to convert on their first five possessions of the second quarter. Keisha Grant and Lindsey Weidenaar (five points) each sank a pair of free throws to bring Lakeside within 15-6.
With fouls racking up, the Devils opted to go into a stall on offense. With the floor spread, three Blue Devil guards dribbled around half-court as the Panther defense sat back in a zone. Statesboro ran more than two minutes off the clock, and Sierra Kirkland (10 points, four rebounds) was able to pick up a pair of inside buckets in the final minute of the half to make it 19-9 at the break.
"Lakeside was able to have their way for a while," Statesboro coach Jeff Seier said. "We had a couple of girls with three fouls early in the second quarter and wanted to ease off. We were comfortable with a 19-9 lead at halftime, and if they were willing to give it to us, that was fine by us."
Tishal Turknett (six points) hit a layup early in the second half to get Lakeside within 19-11 before the Devils would make their move and put the game out of reach.
Aneisha Drummer (five points, four rebounds) nailed a 3 at the 6:38 mark to get Statesboro going, and Kirkland would drop six points in the quarter as Statesboro rattled off an 11-0 run. A free throw by Chandra Wildeman in the final minute would account for the rest of the Panthers' scoring in the period, and the Devils carried a 30-12 lead into the final eight minutes.
Lakeside would mount a late charge as two layups by Cassie Bryant and a Weidenaar 3 cut it to 33-21 with 5:21 to play, but more offensive stalling and defense allowed Statesboro to stay out of the Panthers' reach.
Neither team would score again until a Turknett jumper at the 2:41 mark, but Statesboro quickly answered with buckets by Jenkins and Shanice Walker to make it 37-24 with 1:39 to play.
Raven Thomas converted a steal into an easy layup, and a pair of free throws by Jenkins made it a 41-27 advantage, putting the Panthers away with just over a minute remaining.
Mike Anthony of the Statesboro (Ga.) Herald provided the information in this report.
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