On Saturday, Tift County was as good as advertised.
Tift won a battle of the top two boys basketball teams in Region 1-6A — and the two teams that have played in the last two Region 1-5A championship games — defeating Valdosta 86-57 in front of a standing-room only crowd at the TCHS gym. The win gives Tift a two-game lead in the region standings.
Tift excelled in nearly every area on Saturday, and walked away with a 29-point win.
The Tift boys are loaded with talent. They have a 6-foot-7 forward who has committed to Kansas (Brannen Greene). They have a junior point guard (Tadric Jackson) who could be a Division I signee next year. Several players who took the floor Saturday night looked like potential college prospects. Tift has six players who are 6-foot-4 or taller and four who are at least 6-foot-5.
On Saturday, they came ready to play. They shot the ball well from both the outside and the inside. They played tough defense, constantly putting a hand in the shooter's face. They used their size advantage to their advantage, playing a physical game, and with a trio of officials who chose to let the teams play and didn't call a lot of fouls, that was a huge advantage.
Valdosta matched Tift shot for shot in the first quarter, and led for a good portion of the period. After eight minutes, Tift held an 18-17 lead.
But midway through the second quarter, Tift took control of the game. TCHS was leading 30-29 with less than four minutes left in the first half when it suddenly caught fire. Jackson buried a three-pointer, then made two free throws on Tift's next possession. Ladarius Stewart made a layup, giving Tift a 37-29 lead, then Ali Vaughn made two free throws and Jackson drove the lane for a layup. Finally, Greene drained a three-pointer, completing a 14-0 run for Tift and making the score 44-29.
Tift led 42-31 at halftime.
Tift was leading 47-36 with 4:30 left in the third quarter when it went on another run. Donell Tuff got the ball and dunked it. Jackson made the first of two free throws, then D.J. Bryant grabbed the rebound after Jackson missed the second free throw and scored. Valdosta got two free throws by Rashad Lewis and a putback from Tra Barrett. Then Greene pushed a defender out of his way, got the ball near the top of the key and buried a three-pointer. Then Greene got the ball in transition and dunked. The teams traded jumpers, then Greene and Jackson scored on Tift's final two possessions of the third quarter. That 16-6 run extended Tift's lead to 22 points, 64-42, at the end of three quarters.
Tift added five more points to its lead in the fourth quarter, and extended its lead to 29 points at the end of the game.
The game was physical throughout, and tempers flared with 3:09 left in the game, after Valdosta's Jerahn Thomas was fouled by Jackson. A frustrated Thomas shoved Jackson back, and other players from both sides rushed in. The Valdosta and Tift coaches and the three officials quickly sprinted in and tried to separate everyone. Valdosta was assessed two technical fouls, and Greene made all four free throws afterwards.
Greene led all scorers with 27 points. Jackson had 21 points, and Bryant added 11 for Tift.
Lewis led Valdosta with 16 points. Thomas added 13.
The two teams will meet again next week in Valdosta.
Valdosta girls 48, Tift 36
The Lady Wildcats ended the Tift girls' 15-game winning streak with a 48-36 victory on Saturday.
Valdosta outscored Tift 20-4 in the last 11 minutes of the game, and pulled away for a 12-point region win.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, Tift held a 32-28 lead. But then Valdosta got hot and Tift went cold.
Valdosta's Shaneika Smith made a layup. With 19 seconds left in the quarter, Laquesha Newkirk tied the score with a jumper. Then Stormm Phillips stole the ball and made a pull-up jumper, and the Lady Wildcats headed to the fourth quarter holding a two-point lead, 34-32.
Valdosta's Destiny Covert started the fourth quarter scoring with a pair of baskets. Then Terri Oglesby completed the Lady Wildcats' 12-0 run with a turnaround jumper, extending Valdosta's lead to eight, 40-32, with 4:39 left in the game.
Brakia Bateman ended Tift's eight-plus minute scoring drought by making a hook shot while being fouled with 4:03 left in the game. But Oglesby answered with a layup at the other end. The teams went scoreless for the next two minutes, then Phillips' free throw with 1:31 left gave Valdosta a 43-34 lead. Dee Dee Deshazer make a basket for Tift. But the Lady Wildcats converted three free throws in the final minute, and Kaneshia Kimbrough's layup with 19 seconds left gave Valdosta its biggest lead of the game, 48-36, which turned out to be the final score.
The two teams went back and forth throughout the first half, with both teams holding several leads. Tift led 15-14 after one quarter, and Courtney Baker's basket with five seconds left in the first half gave Valdosta a one-point lead, 24-23, at halftime.
Tift regained the lead by scoring nine of the first 13 points of the third quarter. But then Valdosta took control of the game, and pulled away for a 12-point win.
Phillips led the Lady Wildcats with 16 points. Covert and Kimbrough had eight points apiece.
Alexis Johnson led Tift with 11 points. Bateman added 10.
On Saturday, Tift County was as good as advertised.
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Proud of diamond accomplishments of Devils, Panthers
Tift County almost pulled off an incredible feat this year, having two teams in the baseball quarterfinals.. It was a great year for baseball at all area schools, all eight of them in the postseason. Both Kyle Kirk's Tift County Blue Devils and Brad Porter's Tiftarea Academy Panthers came within an eyelash of doing even better: the final four.
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Couch named Region 1-AAAAAA Player of the Year
Tift County High Lady Devil Carlie Couch was named Region 1-AAAAAA’s girls soccer Player of the Year and was one of 11 players from both squads to have been selected to the all-region team. The Lady Devils, who advanced to the state quarterfinals, had six of them.
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Gattis’ grand slam leads Braves past Twins 8-3
Evan Gattis no longer seems amazed by his improbable rookie season.
Yet, there are still times when it’s a bit of an adjustment for the Atlanta Braves catcher.
Like when someone recognizes him in the grocery store.
“It’s a little weird,” the 26-year-old Gattis said. “I’m not used to that yet.”
Two from Tift named 1st team All-Region
The Tift County Blue Devils, who were only just barely eliminated in the state quarterfinals, placed two players on the All-Region team for 1-AAAAAA. The region, which sent three teams to the elite eight in the state tournament, named Lowndes’ Danny Redshaw Coach of the Year.
Battle for state golf title held at Spring Hill
Spring Hill Country Club was temporarily home to 16 different schools Monday. All 16 locked irons in a battle for the Class AAAAAA state boys golf championship. After the dust had settled, top honors had gone to the Norcross Blue Devils, who finished two strokes ahead of the Peachtree Ridge Lions, 294-296.
Spurlin snags state title
The future looks bright for Tift County gymnastics if Brooke Spurlin’s recent showing at the USA Gymnastics Level 6 state meet is any indication.
Tift County High has summer basketball camp
Boys and girls basketball camps will be held at the Tift County High gymnasium for kids in grades Pre K-6, directed by Lady Devils head coach Julie Conner. There are several different camps being offered, including sessions in June and July.
Spring game goes well for Devils
The blue squad was the victors 17-10 over the white team Friday in the annual Tift County Blue Devils spring game. The contest was the first preview of the 2013 team, which opens the regular season on Friday, August 30, with a home game against the Westover Patriots.
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