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February 9, 2014

Bryant has 20 as Devils dominate Packers

MOULTRIE — In her quest for her 2,000th career point on Friday against Tift County on the William Bryant Court at the Gladys Espy Gymnasium, Makeba Ponder missed her first nine shots of the game.

But Lady Packers Coach Rondesha Williams told her All-State performer to keep on shooting.

After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Ponder hit two free throws just 30 seconds into the second and then seemed to find her rhythm.

She hit her first basket less than a minute later and when the horn sounded ending the first half she had 18 points, leaving her three points shy of the 2,000-point milestone.

It took her just 15 seconds the reach the mark when she drained her first shot of the third quarter, a 3-pointer from just beyond the top of the key.

Williams immediately called timeout and let Ponder accept the standing ovation from what was the largest crowd at the Espy Gym in many years.

“I’m really excited for Makeba,” Williams said. “She’s a good kid and a humble kid.”

And quite a scorer.

She was held to just 13 points when the Lady Devils defeated the Colquitt County girls 44-42 last month in Tifton.

On Friday, she scored 31 as the Lady Packers avenged that loss with a 60-54 victory. It marked the 20th time this season she has scored 21 or more points in a game. It was the third time she has surpassed 30 points.

And they finish the Region 1-AAAAAA portion of their schedule with a 9-3 record. They will be the No. 2 seed in the region tournament that starts Monday at Brunswick.

As the No. 2 seed, the Colquitt girls will play in one of the semifinal games at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The Lady Devils are 10-14 overall and 5-6 in the region going into Saturday’s game against Valdosta.

Even without Ponder in the scoring column, the Lady Packers led 9-6 after the first quarter. With Ponder finding her stroke in the second quarter, Colquitt extended its halftime lead to 30-17.

But with Audrey McElhaney scoring eight points, Tift County cut its deficit to just three points heading into the final quarter.

The Lady Packers led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter, but Tift cut Colquitt’s lead to three at 57-54 on a basket by Alexis Johnson with 51.7 seconds remaining.

The Lady Devils were unable to score again and Colquitt County got one free throw from Joneria Grant with 16 seconds left and two Abbi Beth Paulk with 8.2 seconds remaining as the Lady Packers avenged the disappointing earlier loss.

“We played hard,” Williams said of her team. “And we came through at the end.

“But we’ve got to do a better job of boxing out. Next week is a new season and we’ve got to do the little things better. And boxing out is one of them.”

Paulk added 12 points for the Lady Packers. Dexshalyn Polite had nine and Grant and Felisha Bowman each had four.

McElhaney and Moneisha Goldsborough each had 12 and Staceyanna Murrell added 11 for Tift County.

Johnson had eight.

The Tift County boys ran their overall record to 22-2 and remained unbeaten in the region with a 68-39 victory over the Packers in Friday’s second game.

The Blue Devils had won the first meeting 66-20, and although still not able to handle the Blue Devils size and athleticism, the Packers nearly doubled their scoring output.

Tift jumped out 17-5 in the first quarter and led 37-11 at the half.

“They have six guys who are going to sign,” Packers coach Andy Harden said of the Blue Devils. “No. 15 (D.J. Bryant) is going to New Mexico. Tadric (Jackson) is going to Georgia Tech.

“But our guys didn’t quit in this game and that is what I am most proud of.”

Bryant did the most damage for the Blue Devils with 18 of his game-high 20 points coming on six 3-pointers. Four of the 3-pointers came in the first half.

Tyrie Jackson had 10 and Tadric Jackson, Ladarius Stewart and P.J. Horne each had nine.

Tory Ponder and Shaheem Ponder each had eight for the Packers. Sebastian Courtney and Xavier Terry each had seven, Savonta Slaughter had four, Zay Lewis had three and Parker Hoes had a pair of free throws.

Colquitt finishes 5-7 in the region and will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament. The Packers will face No. 4 seed Valdosta at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Brunswick. The winner will be guaranteed a state tournament berth.

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