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December 24, 2013

Devils host 4th annual McDonald’s Invitational

TIFTON — The Tift County Blue Devils will be continuing basketball tradition again this year, hosting the 4th annual McDonald's Invitational. Fourteen teams are coming from three states, separated into three groups, plus a special "Sunshine Series."

This year's Invitational will be following a bit of a tournament format. Four teams are in each of the three pools, with initial games Friday. Winners will face winners and losers will be facing losers Saturday.

The Devils are back home after a short road trip to the City of Palms in Fort Myers, Fla., over the weekend, where they were defeated Monday by Lake Highland Prep, 60-47. The weekend was not a total wash as Tadric Jackson captured the Edison National Bank Slam Dunk Championship Sunday. He had 13 points against Lake Highland, with D.J. Bryant adding 14.

Schools scheduled to play in the McDonald's Invitational will represent some of the best in the state, including one defending state champion in Johnson of Savannah.

Others playing are:

Celebration Storm (8-3): They are one of three mid-Florida entries in the Invitational. They have defeated one team that will be playing — West Orange — and have a chance to play another in Lake Wales. The Storm have been a roll lately, victors of their last five.

Colquitt County Packers: The Pack have seen limited action this season, but have played close games with Bainbridge, Albany and Leon, Fla. It is a bit of a talent exchange as the Lady Pack will be hosting a Christmas Shoot-Out that features the Tift County girls.

Cook Hornets (7-2): Former Devils coach Tommy Blackshear has his team in fine form. They have beaten Lowndes, Valdosta and arch-rival Berrien. The losses were against Valdosta and Lanier County.

Johnson Atom Smashers (5-2): The defending state champions have had some ugly wins this year. Ugly, that is, if you consult who they have beaten. They crushed Islands, 116-29, and Beach, 96-43. One of their losses has been to Savannah, the school they defeated in  last year's AAA finals.

Lake Wales Highlanders  (8-3): The central Florida entry have won their last six. This is their second out-of-state appearance over the past couple weeks. Most recently, they played two games in South Carolina.

Maplewood Panthers (5-3): The team might feel slightly at home in Tifton if they read road signs. They are from Nashville. However, it's the one in Tennessee. They have mostly stayed in that area and have defeated such area schools as Pearl Cohn.

Mill Creek Hawks (3-6): The Hochston team is coming south to play Johnson. It will be quite a change from their schedule so far, which has seen them active in north Georgia. Victories have come against Franklin County, Peachtree Ridge and Habersham Central.

North Florida Educational Institute Eagles (5-2): The Jacksonville school is a past competitor in the City of Palms in Fort Myers. They were scheduled to play Rock of Gainesville, Fla. last week and had a 4-game win streak going in, all by at least 20 points.

 Northside Eagles (Warner Robins) (7-3): They have won four straight. Houston County has been no competition for them so far, as they defeated Warner Robins, Houston County and have two wins over Perry.

Valdosta Wildcats (7-1): The 'Cats are doing well in the early stages of the 2013-14 campaign. Their only loss has been to Cook, but have a win over the Hornets, too.

Vidalia Indians (8-0): The average score of their games has been 79.5-31.3. Part of that average is courtesy of a game against Appling County, which ended 77-15. The Indians made it to the quarterfinals last year, finishing 28-2.

Ware County Gators (5-3): Ware has wins over Brantley County and a team the Devils played earlier this season, Wayne County. They have also tangled with 1-AAAAAA opponent Coffee in a pair of games, with the most recent one a 69-66 win.

West Orange Warriors (3-7): The last of the mid-Florida entries, the Winter Garden-based school have had a recent losing streak, but their wins include a 59-19 pasting in their opener.

The schedule of games Friday will be

Noon: Ware County vs. Northside (Sunshine Series)

1:30 p.m: North Florida Christian vs. West Orange (Pool 3)

3 p.m: Colquitt County vs. Cook (Pool 3)

4:30 p.m: Mill Creek vs. Johnson (Pool 1)

6 p.m: Vidalia vs. Lake Wales (Pool 2)

7:30 p.m: Valdosta vs. Celebration (Pool 2)

9 p.m: Tift County vs. Maplewood (Pool 1)

Saturday:

1:30 p.m: Pool 3 consolation

3 p.m: Pool 2 consolation

4:30 p.m: Pool 1consolation

6 p.m: Pool 3 championship

7:30 p.m: Pool 2 championship

9 p.m: Pool 1 championship

 

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