Drawing the attention of defenders, Kenyata Smith passed the ball out to a teammate for an easy score against Mary Persons. Smith and the rest of the Lady Devils faced Liberty County in the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday night.

The Jackson Lady Devils traveled to Hinesville Tuesday night to take on the Liberty County Lady Panthers in the first round of the state AAA playoffs. This is the second consecutive year Jackson has made it to the state playoffs.

The Lady Devils finished in third place in the 2-AAA region playoffs on Feb. 12, and were set to play the No. 2 seed in region 3-AAA, but had to wait for that region in the Savannah area to complete their playoffs.

Those playoffs didn’t turn out as expected after the top-ranked team in 3-AAA and one of their opponents in the region playoffs knocked each other out of the state playoffs through a bench-clearing fight after the end of the game.

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Beach High beat Savannah High 50-35 in the Region 3-3A tournament semifinals on Feb. 18. The win would have sent Beach, the No. 1 seed and a finalist in the state championship game last year, into a finals matchup with Johnson High on Feb. 19, but the Savannah-Chatham Public School System ruled both Beach’s and Savannah’s seasons over due to the fight.

In a statement released to the press, Superintendent Ann Levett stated:

“On Thursday evening, February 18, 2021, an on-court altercation occurred between two players on the Beach High and Savannah High Girls Basketball teams just as a game between the two teams was ending. The incident led to members of both teams, along with spectators, rushing onto the court towards the altercation.

“These actions are in direct violation of GHSA Rules on Sportsmanship and do not embody the high standards that are expected of our student athletes. As a result, both teams will be withheld from play for the next two scheduled contests as stipulated in GHSA Rule 2.71 — Rules on Sportsmanship. Based on where the season stands, this disqualification will allow no further play by these two teams in regional or state competition, meaning both teams will forfeit the remainder of their seasons. The incident Thursday evening was inappropriate and does not represent the high standards the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System expects its student athletes to uphold.”

The disqualification of Beach meant Johnson, which advanced to the finals with a 60-39 win over Liberty County, will be the No. 1 seed out of Region 3-AAA for the state playoffs, while Liberty County will be the second seed, Southeast Bulloch will be the third seed, and there will not be a fourth seed.

For the region 2-AAA teams, that means that No. 1 Upson-Lee, which was to have faced the fourth seed, will have a bye through the first round. No. 2 Americus-Sumter will host Southeast Bulloch, No. 3 Jackson travels to No. 2 Liberty County, and No. 4 Pike County travels to No. 1 Johnson High.

Results of Jackson’s game will be in next week’s issue of the Progress-Argus.

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