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January 28, 2014

Free throw mark caught Conner by surprise

TIFTON — Like most individuals Saturday night, Tift County Lady Devils coach Julie Conner knew she had a barnburner going with Brunswick. She knew that fouls were happening frequently with many, many trips to the free throw line.

But did she know at the time she was part of history?

"No," she admits, "I just knew it was a lot."

Tift and Brunswick girls combined for 100 free throws in the game. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, that ties them for third place. Their website has the record as being 114. In Saturday's contest, the Lady Devils shot 53 charity shots and Brunswick had 47.

Days later, she is still amazed that their names can be entered in the record books. "That is unbelievable," she said.

Alexis Johnson had the team lead with 19 free shots and sank 11 of them. Thirteen  came in the 3rd period when Johnson went on a 21-point explosion which put them right back in the game after a disastrous start. She finished with 28.

Brunswick won, 79-67, but behind a suffocating press, had a 16-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game. Early in the 2nd it was up to 34-15 before Tift began clawing their way back in it. They were down 14 at intermission, then Johnson and Co. started their tear. The deficit was two points, 57-55, going into the 4th.

They briefly tied it in the 4th on two of Brecklyn Greene’s 10 points, but Brunswick was able to pull back in front.

Even after heaving up 53 free throws Saturday night, Conner is not ready to cut them a break from the drill at practices. "We're shooting more," she laughed. "Lots more."

Before almost defeating one of the region's best teams, they took a hard-fought win from Camden County Friday in Kingsland. They led 19-17 at the halftime before breaking away in the 2nd half for the 53-41 finish.

Conner said she was particularly impressed with the play of Staceyanna Murrell, who pulled down 16 rebounds. Though 2-2 in their last four region contests, the Lady Devils have put up impressive numbers despite the loss of Dorian Jordan, who will miss the remainder of her senior year with a knee injury.

Camden won, 44-42, the first time the teams played.

This weekend will be the last two home games for the Tift County squads. Friday sees them play Lowndes. Saturday will be Valdosta. Strangely, it will be their first meeting with the Wildcats this season. The return game in Valdosta will be Feb. 8.

The Lowndes contest will be senior night, with players and cheerleaders being recognized between varsity games.

Tift will host Pink Night against Valdosta, in support of breast cancer awareness.

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