Tifton Gazette


January 23, 2014

Big battles await Blue Devils this weekend

TIFTON — Tuesday was a rare off night for the Tift County Blue Devils and Lady Devils, but the weekend doubles down on them with big Region 1-AAAAAA games and a long road trip to Kingsland to play the Camden County Wildcats before coming home to play the Brunswick Pirates Saturday at 6 p.m.

"Brunswick is a tough team," said boys coach Eric Holland.

The two have had quite some battles. Strangely, last year's region championship turned out to be the easiest of them, being decided by 16 points, but only after a fierce first half battle.

Their game this year at Brunswick was a physical 68-64 win, a double challenge as it was the afternoon of the bus accident. Holland believes they are now over that.

He highlighted several players on the Pirates' roster who worry him: "Two Davis boys (Mike and Roger), the kid who moved in from Glynn Academy."

The Bucs, 15-4, lost Tuesday at Liberty County, breaking a 6-game winning streak. Before Tuesday, their last loss was the one against the Blue Devils on Jan. 3. Tift, 17-2, has won their last nine games and has not been beaten by a Georgia school this season.

Before they take on Brunswick, they first have to do battle at Camden County. The 'Cats are 10-6, Holland believes them to be dangerous.

"They're a sleeper team," he said. They have managed to surprise a few teams, including Brunswick and Valdosta, the only team in the region Tift has not played.

Last weekend, they had victories over Colquitt County and Coffee. After an overtime win earlier in the year, the game at Douglas ended 73-63.

Holland loves the rivalry and is eager for more games against them. "Hopefully, we'll see them in the region title (game)."

The usual crew of Tadric Jackson, D.J. Bryant, Ladarius Stewart, Preston Horne and Nate Thomas  have been putting up points for Tift, but there have been a few new names in the mix. Tyrie Jackson, nicknamed Pig, has developed in his point guard position and is used in complement with Stewart.

"Pig has played played really well," he said, adding that Jalen Lewis has stepped up. "Everybody is answering the bell."He was also thrilled by Quay Fergerson's performance against Colquitt last Friday. "I'm trying to get him on the floor." Those efforts were rewarded with a 12-point outburst.

Julie Conner's Lady Devils see their tough string of opponents continue. Their first meeting with Camden resulted in a two-point loss after a comeback bid in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

Brunswick's girls, 17-2, have only lost to Washington County and at Lowndes. Tift defeated Lowndes by five in Valdosta earlier this month.

The locals split their weekend games, but did have a big win Friday over Colquitt, where the region's leading scorer, Makeba Ponder, was held to a season low 13 points.

Recent games have seen the combination of Brecklyn Greene and Alexis Johnson put up big numbers, with Dail Adaway putting up clutch baskets. Conner's team has had key contributions from everyone on their roster.

Saturday will be a special day for youth. Those playing for the Tift County Recreation Department, Upward or RA/GA and wearing their team jersey will be admitted free. Players will be recognized at halftime of the boys game.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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