Tifton Gazette

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January 25, 2013

Blue Devils finally return home

TIFTON —  For the first time in seemingly forever, the Tift County Blue Devils play at home. Tonight, they host the Camden County Wildcats in a pair of Region 1-AAAAAA games, starting at 4 p.m. It will be their first home appearance since Jan. 11. They had one final obstacle last night as they traveled to Brunswick for a battle on the coast with the Pirates.

Camden was home last night against the Colquitt County Packers. The Wildcats have hit a rough patch lately. They have yet to win a region game and last won Dec. 29 against Class A Charlton County.

The Lady Cats recently sprang an upset over Valdosta, 74-50. Valdosta had taken the first game between them, 58-39.

For Lady Devils coach Julie Conner, she hopes she will finally have a game with some breathing room. “I’d love to beat someone by 20 or 30,” she said.

They defeated Coffee by eight last Saturday, 45-37. This was a night after  needing a huge fourth quarter to defeat Colquitt County. On the 15th, Conner recorded her first victory in Albany over Westover. Of course, it was a close one, 67-62.

Conner, who was recently named a member of ABAC’s Athletic Hall of Fame, has been pleased with the development of her squad through this stretch.

Dee Dee DeShazer, the team’s high scorer on the year, did not figure into the top three at Coffee. Alexis Johnson scored 15, Staceyanna Murrell, 10, and Brakia Bateman had nine.

“Everyone has been doubling down on Dee Dee,” she said, which she said has allowed others to step up. “I’m very, very proud,” she said of how they have responded.

The win over Coffee boosted their season record to 15-3. They have won 12 straight games, a streak that stretches back to Dec. 19, the first game of the Florida road trip.

The Devils lost their first region game of the year against Coffee, 88-83, a game that did not feature Brannen Greene. Greene did make the trip to Springfield, Mass., for the Hoophall game against the St. Anthony Friars, a school listed in the top 10 nationally in multiple polls. Tift had the lead at the end of the third quarter and gave the Friars quite a scare, though they ultimately lost, 60-54.

By losing their last two, Tift is now 14-4 and 5-1 in the region. It has cost them their No. 1 ranking in Class AAAAAA in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, but Score Atlanta has kept them in their perch. The latter poll has taken notice of the Lady Devils as well. They are ranked No. 8 this week.

Next week, Tift County gets a full serving of teams from Lowndes County. They travel to Lowndes next Friday and host Valdosta Saturday.

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