Tifton Gazette

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February 14, 2013

Lady Devils spill Coffee, advance to region finals

TIFTON — Score another for the comeback kids. The Tift County Lady Devils, who have made a season out of erasing deficits and close calls, pulled out a 57-52 win over the Coffee Lady Trojans in the Region 1-AAAAAA semifinals Thursday, held at Valdosta High. The win raises their record to 20-6 and not only puts them in tonight’s championship game, but ensures that they host at least the first round of the state playoffs.

“They tried to give me a heart attack,” said head coach Julie Conner.

Tift, who had trailed all of the second half, save for a momentary four point lead in the third, were down by six, 50-44, midway through the final period when they finally started rolling when as Conner described, “Dee Dee hit a huge one when we needed it.”

Dee Dee DeShazer scored a three-pointer to get it down to a three point deficit. Before Coffee had a chance to react, the Lady Devils stole the ball and Brakia Bateman’s layup cut it to a single point. Denying Coffee again on offense, they took over possession and DeShazer was fouled. It was the seventh team foul and she went to the line for a one-and-one and made both charity shots, giving Tift the lead, 51-50.

Alexis Johnson pushed the lead to three seconds later. Coffee would score with a minute left to cut it to one and looked to have a chance to take the lead back when Staceyanna Murrell missed a bonus shot. However, Johnson grabbed the rebound and scored to make it 55-52.

The Lady Trojans would miss a jumper, but Tift could not put it out of reach when Bateman missed a free throw. Down by three, Coffee opted for an inside shot, but could not push it through. Murrell recovered the ball and threw a long outlet pass to DeShazer, who scored as the buzzer sounded, making the final score 57-52.

The game appeared to be a runaway early on for the Lady Devils. They were up 6-0 after four minutes of play. Coffee then got into gear. Soon it was 10-8 in their favor and 12-9 at the end of the first. They would twice extend their lead to 11 late in the second quarter, though DeShazer would close out the half with her first field goal to make it 30-21, Coffee.

The comeback plan would take shape in the third. Spurred by Murrell and Johnson, they turned the deficit into a four point lead, 38-34, before Coffee took control again. Going into the final period, the team from Douglas was on top 40-38.

Johnson finished with 25 points, 13 in the second half. While her coach was proud of the efforts of all of her players, Conner singled out Johnson’s soul. “Alexis would say in timeouts ‘we are not going to lose this game.’”

DeShazer and Murrell each had 10. The Lady Devils play the winner of game between Valdosta and Colquitt County scheduled to start at 7 p.m..

The Blue Devils were scheduled to play Thursday, also against Coffee in the region semifinals. Depending on outcome, they will play at 5:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., against Valdosta or Brunswick

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