Tifton Gazette

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January 1, 2014

Region schedule begins this weekend for Blue Devils

TIFTON — The holiday break was short for the Tift County Blue Devils and Lady Devils this year. After participating in the McDonald's Invitational and Colquitt Christmas Shoot-Out events that ended Saturday, they are back in action this weekend. Friday, they will be at Brunswick and Saturday they host Camden County at 6 p.m.

Lady Devils coach Julie Conner said that the Camden contest was initially set at 4 p.m., as it was last year, but Tift requested the change to 6. Conner hoped that a later game would allow more people to attend.

Brunswick will be their 1-AAAAAA debut for the year and Camden will be their first home region game. It will also be a special night for one of the local players.

Alexis Johnson recently scored her 1000th point while the squad has been on the road. She will be honored at halftime Saturday.

It has been a long absence from Tifton for the girls. Their last game on home hardwood was Dec. 14 against Wayne County. Since then, they have toured Florida and spent three days in Moultrie. It is no surprise that Conner said they were "so happy" to be coming back home.

Their record currently stands at 5-7, with a 1-game winning streak. "I put together an extremely difficult schedule," she said. She believes it will be extremely beneficial for the coming region grind. "It's really coming together now, it's perfect timing."

She has had a chance to see all region opponents, including a close-up look at Brunswick, who also played in Moultrie. They were undefeated until Saturday, a 68-66 loss to Washington County, a team that has a state championship and a runner-up crown in the past three seasons.

"They're a very good ball club," she said. The region tournament will also be held at Brunswick this year.

Eric Holland's team is 10-2. The past two weeks have seen them play one of the top national teams (Lake Highland Prep) at the City of Palms in Fort Myers, Fla., defeat last year's Class AAA runner-up in a comeback win and thrash a pair of opponents in the McDonald's Invitational.

The Invitational saw them start slow on both nights, but finish strongly and allow Holland to play every man on his varsity roster for extended periods.

Tadric Jackson had 40 points over the weekend, though that has been only one of the highlights for him recently. The day before their game against Lake Highland, Jackson won the slam dunk competition at the City of Palms. D.J. Bryant also had 23 over the past two games and four Devils were named to the McDonald's all-tournament team. Ladarius Stewart and Ali Vaughn were the others.

Both teams captured region championships last year and hosted three rounds of the state tournament until both fell in the elite eight.

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