Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

February 22, 2013

Blue Devils get rematch with Westlake

TIFTON — There will be a rematch here tonight between the Tift County Blue Devils and Westlake Lions and the Lady Devils will also be in action against the Newton Lady Rams in second round state basketball competition, starting at 6 p.m. The Devils, 24-4, made it here after a 70-48 blowout against the McEachern Indians in the first round Wednesday night. The Lady Devils, who also played Wednesday, defeated the Campbell Lad Spartans, 65-55, to advance to the second round.

Westlake is 23-5 this year. They won their first round game against the Rockdale County Bulldogs, 81-76. Though they have only made it to the second round the past two years, they have had tremendous history since the school opened in 1988, especially in the past 15 seasons. The Lions were state champs in 1999 and 2002, runners-up in 2006 and 2010 and have reached the semifinals four more times, including in 2008 and 2009.

The Blue Devils won’t just be playing a team with tremendous talent tonight. They are also looking for revenge.

“We get a chance to redeem ourselves,” said head coach Dr. Eric Holland. The Devils’ season ended prematurely last year when the Lions edged them, 63-60, in Tifton. Now it is their chance to seek revenge. “We’re extra motivated about that,” he said. “It’s a blessing how these things work.”

Holland said that it is a different Westlake team than last year. Kejuan Johnson, a transfer student that the coach called one of the top five in the state as a 6’6” point guard, has joined the roster. Not that the Devils are lacking the transfer department, either. Brannen Greene, who was named Mr. Georgia Basketball this week, arrived this year from Mary Persons in Forsyth.

He said that he was happy with game against McEachern. “We call it 51-50 basketball,” he said about their tactics. “We want to keep that one-point difference.” The Indians fell below that 50-point margin. They scored 48 on the evening and the Devils were above the 51. After falling behind 10-2 in the first quarter, they scored 24 of the next 28 points and finished with 70 on the night.

Lady Devils assistant coach Eric Willis described Newton as being “battle tested.” “They play in a tough region,” he said. The Lady Rams had a narrow escape against Westlake in their first round game at Covington, barely pulling out a 53-51 win.

Willis said he was impressed by two of their players, point guard Precious Price and forward Sonia Forney. “[Price] is a real good guard that led them in scoring,” he said. Both Price and Forney are juniors, two of seven on the roster. The Lady Rams only have two seniors.

Tift, on the other hand, kept a 10-point margin for most of their game against Campbell. “The game went really well,” said Willis. “The way we were able to hold our intensity was great.” The Lady Devils are now 22-6 on the season, a year that started 3-3 for them before they went on a 15-game winning streak.

A strong Lady Devils inside defense kept Campbell shooting from around the perimeter all night. DeJai Jordan, labeled by Willis as being “no doubt our player of the game,” scored nine points, corralled 14 rebounds, six of them on the offensive glass and dished out three assists. Alexis Johnson led Tift in scoring with 18 and Brakia Bateman and Brecklyn Greene each had 14.

If Tift County wins tonight’s games, they will again be hosts for the quarterfinals. The Lady Devils would play the winner of the contest between North Cobb and Rockdale County. The Blue Devils might also see North Cobb, who plays Morrow tonight in their second round game.

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