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.
- Local Sports
Big game in Ocilla
The Irwin County Indians and the Charlton County Indians have played one of the most unique football series in the state of Georgia.
Irwin County won the first game played between the two schools in 1966, and went on to win the next 14 games in the series, going up to 1989.
Tough, busy weekend for Tift basketball
The Tift County Blue Devils and Lady Devils will be home again tonight when they take on the Westover Patriots at 7 p.m. Saturday finds them at Buford for a 3 p.m. game against the Wolves.
Westover sure to be a tough test for both squads. The Tift boys, 3-1 this season, swept the series last year while the girls had a big comeback to win in Albany after losing the earlier game in Tifton.
Column: Wishing I could be two places at once tonight
I am the lone full-time sports reporter here at The Tifton Gazette. One of the detriments of the job is that there is just one me and since cloning has not been perfected quite yet, I can only be in one place in one time.
Packers hope to be ‘wall-worthy’ tonight at Norcross
There is space on the wall in foyer of the field house at Colquitt County High School for another oversized team photo.
And a victory in tonight’s 7:30 Class AAAAAA state quarterfinal game at Norcross – and certainly one tonight and another the following Saturday – would make this year’s Packers, in coach Rush Propst’s words, “wall-worthy.”
Merritt is Irwin County’s heart and soul
After an Irwin County Indian home football game this year, the coaches gathered and talked. A lot of the talk centered around the comment, “No. 7 played well tonight.”
Kiwanis Run For The Kids
The ninth annual Kiwanis Run For The Kids 5K/ 1 mile event is set for Dec. 7. Tom Shoup, event co-chair and club president said, "This event is held the first Saturday in December in Tifton to raise money for local children's charities and to highlight our town's historic district."
Tidal Wave swimmers excel at St. Petersburg meet
On Nov. 22, eight Tiftarea Tidal Wave swimmers traveled to St. Petersburg, Fla. for a training trip that also included participating in a swim meet at the Northshore Aquatic Complex. The swimmers were Beau Bengston, J.D. Bengston, Carrie Engram, Cason Johnston, Kirsten Murphy, Karoline Ponder, Lauren Stone and Eden Troxell.
Area teams have had good fortune in semis
The Irwin County Indians have the weight of the Tiftarea on their shoulders Friday night. They are the last team alive in the state football tournament, a remarkable achievement considering the quality programs in the area.
Cook moves to AAAA, 1-AAAAAA welcomes Lee Co.
The Georgia High School Association announced region alignments for 2014-16 Tuesday afternoon and some of the moves were quite surprising.
Travel has possibly been on their minds, as they have made some decisions that are football-specific. For example, Camden County will be in 1-AAAAAA for football, but in all other sports, will be in a subdivided 3-AAAAA.
Lee has made big difference for Charlton
With a 75 yard touchdown run Nov. 8 against the Irwin County Indians, Charlton County Indian sophomore running back Andrew Lee introduced himself to south Georgia high school football.
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