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January 29, 2013

Togetherness, tough schedule, team work have Lady Devils rolling

TIFTON — To hear Tift County Lady Devil  head basketball coach Julie Conner talk, the T on her team’s uniforms has stood for more than Tift County in recent weeks.

The Lady Devils have reeled off 14 straight wins and are currently posting a 17-3 overall mark on the year. Conner attributes that to many things among them, team work, togetherness as a team and a tough schedule. All of those T’s have led the Lady Devils to you guessed it, a terrific season.

“We played some tough games early and got some perspective on how good of a team we could be this year,” said Conner. “We played two state champions in Buford and Dunbar (Fla.) and we played them tough. I think that helped us realize we had a lot of potential. We just had to work hard and play together.”

Tift lost to Buford, 65-36, but, “We played even with them for a half, and I think we learned a lot from that game,” Conner said. Buford was the state champions last year in Class AA.

The game against Dunbar (Fla.) saw the Lady Devils fall 57-53.

“They were another team that is defending a state championship and I think we realized just how good we could be when we stayed with them,” said Conner.

She added, “Going back to the last game of last season, three of our last four losses have been to teams that are defending state champions or ranked No. 1 this season. Westover is the only one of that group that is not and we came back and got them.”

“We played a team like Dunbar so close, I think it helped us realize that we have a lot of potential this season. We just had to work hard and play together.”

The two games with Westover do show just how far the Lady Devils have come this season. Westover defeated Tift, 44-26, in the Lady Devils’ season opener. Tift came back on Jan. 15 and got a 67-62 win over Westover on the road in Albany.

Besides the tough schedule, Conner cited her team’s togetherness as an unit.

“I really think our (mid-December) trip to Florida helped us. We became closer as a family and it really helped our team chemistry,” said Conner.

Conner missed that trip due to medical problems, but has gotten healthier, with her team’s play probably having a lot to do with her healing.

“I would like to hope that maybe I have been an inspiration for them. I want them to know they can overcome any adversity,” said Conner. “I want them to give everything they have.”

Even though they are currently 17-3 on the year, and better yet, unbeaten in league play with an 8-0 record, Conner feels the Lady Devils still have a lot of room for improvement.

“The great thing about this team is they have yet to play 32 minutes of great basketball. They have shown signs of it for as long as a half, but they have yet to put together four great quarters.

“What makes it special is that I not only think that is possible, I know it is.”

Tift will be back in action Friday at Lowndes.


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