Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

February 28, 2013

Tift toppled in tourney by North Cobb

TIFTON — The dream season ended Wednesday night. The Tift County Blue Devils, ranked No. 1 for most the year in Class AAAAAA, saw their state championship hopes dashed by the North Cobb Warriors in the quarterfinals, 68-63. It took a perfect performance to top the Devils, who had led all night. North Cobb was 15-15 from the free throw line during the game and made nine three-pointers, which was enough to make up a a big deficit going into the fourth quarter.

Tift was up seven, 52-45, going into the final eight minutes, after having scored the final four points of the third period. North Cobb erased the deficit in two minutes, tying it at 52-all following a pair of free throws from Joe Beausejour and a three-pointer and dunk from Jordan Neff.

Ali Vaughn snatched the lead right back when he was fouled on a made basket, but was unable to push the margin to three. Two trips down the floor later and a defensive stop by the Warriors, they were up three and it was Tift's time to play catch-up. One flick of Brannen Greene's wrists knotted it back up at 57 and a minute later, he would make it 59-57. That would be the Devils' last lead of the game.

Moore made the score 60-59 after a basket and bonus free throw at 2:47, then gave his team some breathing room with two more charity shots. Tadric Jackson came the closest to making it even again, 62-61, with a pair of foul shots and two blocked shots by Jackson and Greene on the next Warrior possession almost pushed the momentum back in their favor, but North Cobb recovered and restored their lead to three with a minute left.

The Devils were down, but not done. D.J. Bryant's steal with 42 seconds left cut it to 64-63, but Neff closed the door seven seconds later with a thunderous dunk. He would finish with 22 points. Three-pointers refused to go down for Tift and fouling their opponent only resulted in two more made free throws, which made the deficit five, 68-63, with 21 seconds left and that would prove the be the final points of the game.

It started as a cat-and-mouse game. Unable to run with the Blue Devils, the Warriors played a slow-down, halfcourt offense. That game them the early lead, Neff's trey a little over four minutes into the game making it 12-6, North Cobb. Tift returned firepower. Consecutive baskets, including a three from Rashawn Canady cut it to 12-11. Bryant tied it 14 a minute later and Jackson slashed through defenders with a single second on the clock to give them a 16-14 advantage at the first break.

Tift looked to make it their game in the second. In front of a sellout crowd, they opened up a five-point lead early in the quarter and after Neff cut it to three, 21-18, went on a tear. With three minutes before the half, they were up 32-18. North Cobb scored two quick baskets to steady the ship, but saw their deficit back in double figures when Greene scored in the last minute to make it a 34-23 game at halftime.

The Warriors were the ones who started the third frame hot. Ninety seconds in, they had cut it to six. Tift struggled to keep some distance, but were up by 10 again at 3:33 when Greene hit a three. Beausejour kept North Cobb in it by himself in the quarter, nailing four threes of his own, including one that made it a 48-45 contest. Donell Tuff seized the momentum back 30 seconds later with a steal and a dunk and Jackson would make a final basket to set up the 52-45 lead and the fourth quarter showdown.

Greene finished out his Blue Devils career with 22 points. Jackson scored 15 and Bryant had 13. Other than Neff's 22, the Warriors were sparked by Beausejour's 21 and Moore's 18. North Cobb plays Saturday in the final four against Norcross, who pounded Berkmar, 56-35.

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