TIFTON — The Tift County Lady Devils had one goal in mind Friday night: stop Makeba Ponder.
Ponder had been a one-person wrecking crew for the Colquitt County Lady Packers. She came to Tifton averaging 26.7 points per game, with a season low of 17.
Following the night of hoops, the latter stat was chaged as a fine defensive effort held her to 13 points and clutch shooting gave the home team a 44-42 comeback victory.
The Devils had a much easier time with their opponents, skinning the Packers 66-20.
Several different Lady Devils were given the task of defending Ponder. Tatianya Smith and Audrey McElhaney both did strong work in holding her points total down, but the one assigned to her in the critical 4th quarter was Sky Moore.
Ponder had four points in the final period, with just a pair of free throws after Moore reentered the game. So flustered was Ponder that when she had an opportunity for a wide open layup with a minute to go, she missed.
"She was great, wasn't she?" said head coach Julie Conner after the game.
Solving Ponder was only part of the answer for Tift.
The two teams played a tight game throughout, but after Ponder's charity shots at 2:50, Colquitt was up 41-37.
Alexis Johnson hit a runner and 20 seconds later a Brecklyn Greene field goal tied it. Ponder then missed her layup, but the ball went back to the Lady Pack when traveling was called during the mad scramble for possession.
Dexshalyn Polite was fouled at 32 seconds and she made the second of two free shots to return the lead to the visitors, but Johnson drove for another basket to make it 43-42 with 20 seconds remaining.
Polite fired up a 3-pointer that went wide of the target. McElhaney grabbed the rebound and was fouled. She made the first of two free throws. Colquitt rebounded the miss but with only two seconds left, could only fire up a prayer.
The Lady Packers held a 12-10 lead after the 1st quarter, Ponder scoring 5 with Johnson and Staceyanna Murrell scoring 4 each for the Lady Devils.
Tossing it inside to Murrell was an early strategy for the squad and she would have 8 of their 22 1st half points. They were ahead by one at halftime.
Johnson took over scoring in the 2nd half. The senior had 14 points in the last 16 minutes and finished with 20. Greene and Murrell each had 8. Besides Ponder's 13, Polite and Abbibeth Paulk both scored 11 for Colquitt.
For a few seconds of the nightcap, the Packers were even with the Blue Devils. That was when Jaquain Blakely sank a short bucket to make the score 2-2.
By the time they scored again, Tift had 20. That was on a free throw. When their next basket was scored, it was halfway through the 2nd quarter and cut the lead to 26.
So thorough was the domination that Dr. Eric Holland only played his starters for a couple of minutes in the 3rd quarter. He had extensively substituted in the opening half.
It was a night that all players had plenty of playing time. Quay Fergerson, who had 8 points total coming into the game, racked up 12. His number was only one behind Tadric Jackson, who led with 13, all in the first two periods. Tyrie Jackson added 8 and D.J. Bryant and Preston Horne had 7 apiece.
Shaheem Ponder was tops for Colquitt with 8. His last basket was at the buzzer and kept the Pack out of the 'teens in in scoring.