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January 5, 2013

Late surge propels Blue Devils

TIFTON — There was a momentary lapse of reason Friday night, a moment when it seemed possible that the underdog Brunswick Pirates could spring the upset over the Tift County Blue Devils. Fortunately, the homestanding Devils were able to fend off the invaders and hold on for a 10-point win.

Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Devils were clinging to a 60-58 lead and had just missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. Brunswick had the ball and a chance to take the lead, but with the ball in their frontcourt, defensive pressure forced a turnover on a five-second call. With the ball back in their hands, Brannen Greene hit a three-pointer to put them up by five and start an offensive barrage.

Soon the lead was up to six. Greene would make it nine with another three off an inbounds pass. The Pirates never totally faded from view, but the Devils kept a steady 10-point lead for most of the final three minutes, the final being 82-72.

The first few minutes of the contest indicated a Tift County runaway. They certainly started with a bang. Seconds after taking the opening tip, Donell Tuff shook the rafters with a thunderous dunk off an alley-oop pass. A rattled Brunswick was unable to find the inside of the net before four minutes elapsed off the clock, enabling the Devils to build a 10-0 lead.

The Pirates settled down after that, cutting it to a three-point advantage in a minute before the home squad was able to get their own offensive back in gear, pulling the lead to 19-12 at the end of a quarter.  The Devils would stay in front during the whole second quarter, but their guests refused to give in and knocked the lead down to six when Khalil Norman hit a running layup with five seconds left and had a chance to make it closer when he came up with a steal as Tift was maneuvering for a last second shot, but the ball clanked off the rim.

Brunswick led off the third with a Norman basket and kept the Devils on their toes for the entire quarter, though they were unable to grab the lead as Tift had a response every time the Pirates edged closer. They were up 54-51 going into the fourth, when the Bucs nipped at their heels before the offense began to establish firm footing, mostly at the hands of Kansas signee Greene, who had 15 points in the final eight minutes.

Norman had 14 for Brunswick, third in scoring behind Ty Jackson (20) and Marquice Jones (16). Greene as usual provided the bulk of the Blue Devils offense, finishing with 31. Tuff and DJ Bryant each added 15. The Devils are now 9-2, 1-0 in Region 1-AAAAAA. They and the Lady Devils traveled to Camden County this afternoon.

While the Devils started their game red hot, things began the opposite direction for the Lady Devils. Behind a smothering press, Brunswick grabbed a 7-0 lead before Tift was able to respond. Dee Dee DeShazer’s three appeared to give them a start, cutting it to 10-8, but on the very next possession Destiny Alston returned the favor with a three of her own and it would be 14-9, Lady Pirates after one quarter.

The Lady Devils ran into free throw woes in the second quarter and were only 8 of 16 during the first half. This would keep them from getting the momentum totally in their hands and allowed Brunswick to maintain the lead for the entire half, though DeShazer put her team in striking distance, 24-23, when she ended the second with a jumper.

The same frustrations looked to start the second half as the Lady Bucs had an answer for every point put on the board, but that began to change midway through the third quarter when DeShazer gave them their first lead of the night, 34-32. Brunswick would maintain a tie for another minute, but the tide had changed.  Brakia Bateman made it a four-point lead at 2:15 and by the end of the frame, it was 47-38.

After three tight quarters, the final would be all Tift. In four minutes it was a 15-point lead and a minute later, they pushed it to 20, allowing coach Eric Willis to empty his bench and take the 67-46 win.

DeShazer had a season high 29 points to lead Tift, who improves to 9-3. Alexis Johnson had 13 and Staceyanna Murrell contributed 11. Brunswick was paced by Alston’s 19.

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