TIFTON — The Tift County Blue Devils took their sixth Region 1 championship in a row and the Lowndes Vikettes finished on top of their bracket Friday night in the conference tournament played at TCHS.

Tift topped Colquitt County, 58-44, while the Vikettes defeated Tift’s Lady Devils, 59-49.

Both winning squads were regular season champions of Region 1-AAAAAAA as well.

Colquitt, who played games Tuesday and Thursday, were up early against the Devils, to the extent the score was 21-9 in their favor 90 seconds into the second quarter.

The Packers then seemed to hit a wall. Four minutes later, the game was knotted at 23-all. At halftime, Tift led 27-24. They never fell behind again.

Tift head coach Chris Wade said he expected plenty of energy from Colquitt at the start of the game.

“They were so hyped up to beat us,” Wade said. Then, he said, as the game slowed down, the pace and the momentum went to the Devils.

The hosts got that momentum headed in their direction on a single free throw from J.J. McClain. Marquavious Johnson hit five points during that streak and when Rashod Bateman was fouled on a dunk attempt, all the crowd energy was Tift County’s.

McClain was the player who tied the game, doing so on a Montavious Terrell assist. Terrell’s free throws at 1:38 gave Tift the lead.

Colquitt tried to stop the streaking Devils and had an opportunity to tie when Quentin Dopson was fouled with under a minute to go. He could only hit one from the line and Terrell ended the quarter by following his own shot with an offensive rebound with a second to spare.

The Tift defense kept working the Packers over in the second half. After Colquitt had the big lead, they were good for only a single basket (by Dopson) over the next 10 minutes.

Nizarre Thompson hit a three-pointer, cutting Tift’s margin to 31-29. Back-to-back three-point shots by Terrell and Tyree Marshall pushed the lead back to 37-29. The Pack never got it under six points after that.

Colquitt was dealt another blow when Cameron Singletary picked up his third and fourth fouls within a matter of seconds in the third period. Singletary, who finished as his squad’s top scorer, was good from the field just once during the second half.

Up 38-32 at the start of the fourth, a Terrell-to-Johnson connection provided a quick five-point burst. Tift also had foul troubles late, but found success under the basket. Terrell and Johnson each scored on drives to the hoop and Marshall hit four free throws in the quarter. They led by 11 points with a minute remaining.

Colquitt had an especially difficult time in stopping Terrell in the second half. The senior only had four points in the first half, but tortured the Packers

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with both his shooting and dribbling over the next 16 minutes. Terrell also didn’t mind putting his body at risk in chasing down basketballs. Wade said he still doesn’t know how Terrell came up with possession in one situation near the baseline.

“He tries to go out and win it,” Wade said about Terrell’s efforts. “He’s such a crafty guy with the ball.”

Terrell had 18 points, with Bateman and Johnson each adding 12.

Singletary was Colquitt’s top gun with 17 points. Eleven more came from Thompson.

There was a special moment at the end of Friday’s game.

With 33 seconds to go, Wade called timeout. In entered several fresh players, including Deshonn Chaney. Chaney, who’d missed more than half of the season following knee surgery, scored the game’s last basket with two seconds to go.

Wade said the plan to get Chaney a basket came a couple of weeks earlier, at Senior Night. Chaney dressed for the first time since his injury that game, but Wade did not get a chance to insert him in the lineup. Friday, he did.

“We just put him out there, just to see if he could get a basket,” said Wade.

Jabo Butler assisted on the shot. Wade said he figured Colquitt coach Andy Harden understood the situation, as the teams are very familiar with one another. Chaney was kept on the offensive end of the court to prevent injury.

VIKETTES 59, LADY DEVILS 49

Tift’s Lady Devils had entered Friday’s game as the underdog after an unbelievable tournament.

The Lady Devils were the No. 4 seed when tournament play began Tuesday, needing a win just to even assure themselves of a spot in the state playoffs. They knocked off No. 3 Camden County by four points and Thursday, Tift upset No. 2 Colquitt County, 58-50, a team that had defeated them by 20+ points in each of their previous meetings this season.

“We were out of gas,” said Tift head coach Julie Conner, whose squad will host a first round game in the state tournament next week.

“Hats off to them,” she said of Lowndes. “They were the better team tonight.”

Tift was up to the challenge early, fighting to a 26-26 tie midway at 2:21 in the second quarter.

But a Tiffany Smith three-pointer went in, a Tift triple rimmed out and Smith hit again from deep for a six-point lead at 1:26.

Smith was the driving force for Lowndes, whose victory was their 20th of the season.

Smith had 21 points in the first half and finished with 27. Tift attempted a box-and-one defense on her in the second half, but Smith could not be contained.

“Tiffany Smith had an unbelievable game,” said Conner. “So did Jamesha Samuel.”

Samuel finished with 12 points.

Lowndes scored first Friday, a basket by Samuel off the opening tip and were up 10-5 in the first 2:30 of the game.

Tift battled back with baskets by Kaysie Harrelson and Destiny Johnson, the latter on an assist by Nicky Jones, to get back to 10-9 30 seconds later. The opening frame seesawed between the two squads, Lowndes going up by as much as seven points on Smith’s basket, but the Lady Devils ended the quarter on a three-point shot by Harrelson from the right corner, making it 20-16.

Free throws in the second quarter cut Lowndes’ lead to four points, then Jones made it 26-25 when she hit a deep shot at 4:26. Smith was out of the game at that moment and when she came in seconds later, the Vikettes’ fortunes began to change.

The Lady Devils worked to the 26-26 tie on a single free throw by Denise Duggins, then Smith brought the ball up the floor and calmly nailed a three-pointer near the top of the key.

Smith scored the remainder of the points in the half and just missed a three-point shot at the buzzer. The Vikettes were ahead 35-26 at the break.

Three baskets, including a steal by Jones that saw her go coast-to-coast for a layup to start the third quarter got the Lady Devils to win three at 35-32.

Smith scored four points during a 6-0 Lowndes run that brought the lead back to 41-32.

Jones scored again but Kayla Freeman had a basket and Smith added a three-point play to make Lowndes’ lead a double-digit one.

Tift ended the quarter on a Joslyn Reyes three-pointer that made the score 46-37, but Lowndes scored six more to start the fourth. Free throws by Marcella Gary at 6:14 gave the Vikettes their largest lead of the night at 51-37.

The Lady Devils did have a late surge in their tired legs.

Reyes scored on an offensive rebound, then after a pair of misses at the line by Lowndes, Jones raced down the floor for a layup at 1:14.

Forced to foul, Tift found that Lowndes was just as good from the stripe. The Vikettes sank five of eight free throws to take the win.

Smith’s 27 led both teams. Besides Samuel’s points, Lowndes had seven from Arianna Allen.

Jones (15 points) and Harrelson (13) paced Tift.

Despite the ending to the region tournament, Conner was thrilled with Tift’s performance.

“Monday,” she said, “nobody even thought we’d have a chance to make state.”

In the upset against Colquitt, Conner said, “We played an incredible game.”

The first round of state will see Region 1 matched with Region 2. Lowndes will face the loser of Campbell and Pebblebrook, while Tift gets that contest’s winner. Campbell and Pebblebrook play in the Region 2 consolation Saturday at Wheeler High.

Tift is currently slated to play the first round of state next Saturday, but both Wade and Conner said they were hopeful of turning it into a Friday doubleheader.

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