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February 10, 2014

Tift County girls one win from state return

TIFTON — One game this afternoon for the Tift County Lady Devils against the Valdosta Lady Wildcats has a chance to pay big dividends in the region basketball tournament in Brunswick.

"If we win, we'll be guaranteed three more games," said coach Julie Conner.

That is putting it a bit simple. If they beat the Lady 'Cats, they are awarded a spot in the state tournament. Exactly what slot they get in that bracket will be determined by the region semifinals and finals or consolation, which will be later this week. A state entry would be their fourth consecutive.

They have swept Valdosta this year, winning 57-49 at home and 45-42 on the road. The scheduling for the past few years have made the two exceptionally familiar lately. "Three times in a week and a half," said Conner. Their previous meetings were Feb. 1 and Saturday.

Winning three straight times over a single opponent might be a tall order. The Lady 'Cats could not pull the trick last year. They won both regular season games, but fell in the region finals on their own floor. Home turf won't be a problem, though.

Conner admits she's glad that this encounter will be on neutral ground, even if it is a considerable drive from Tifton. Naturally, she is also confident with where her team stands.

"I know how talented our team is. We can really surprise a lot of people."

On the surface, their records appear questionable. They are 11-15 overall, 6-6 in 1-AAAAAA. However, with the exception of Brunswick, they have beaten everyone in the region at least once and Valdosta twice. The victories against Camden County and Lowndes came on the road.

With a win, they would play Brunswick in the semis Thursday. Despite being the only team they have not beaten Conner said she still believes they are in a good bracket.

Alexis Johnson has been the points leader for the team all season long, but the supporting cast has been stepping up in big ways lately.

Dail Adaway hit the game-tying shot and Brecklyn Greene hit key free throws against Valdosta. Greene is averaging 9 points per game. Staceyanna Murrell has not only been a force in the paint, but has been consistently hitting longer range shots. Friday was a loss to Colquitt, but saw season highs in points from both Audrey McElhaney and Moneisha Goldsborough.

The Tift County boys, who have qualified for state as a result of their No. 1 seed, won't see action until Thursday. They will play either Colquitt or Coffee.

 

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