Tifton Gazette


February 6, 2014

Blue Devils, Lady Devils hit road this weekend

TIFTON — The end of the regular season for the Tift County Blue Devils and Lady Devils is here, with the squads playing their last two games. Tonight, they play the Colquitt County Packers and Saturday they will go against the Valdosta Wildcats. Both games are on the road. The region tournament starts next week and will be at Brunswick.

If the 21-2 Devils can defeat both teams, they will have an undefeated record in 1-AAAAAA heading into the region tournament. The team has not been beaten within the state lines. Winners of 13 straight games, both The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Score Atlanta have ranked them as the No. 2 team in Class AAAAAA in their latest polls.

Dr. Eric Holland said he loves the rivalry with Valdosta and how it has become a tradition to play them on their senior night. "Two good teams playing hard," he said.

It will also be another round between them and the 'Cats' top shooter, Rashad Lewis.

He was the top scorer for both sides in last week's game, with a big third quarter that helped cut into Tift's lead.

"He was able to hit a few shots," Holland said. "We knew he he'd hit some." With the exception of a brief stretch, he said he thought they did a good job containing Lewis.

Several members of the team will be graduating after this season, but the last part of the season is reassuring for the future. Freshman Preston Horne has been starting all year and sophomore Tyrie Jackson, nicknamed "Pig," has seen a big increase in minutes and responsibilities.

"Pig had to take a bigger role once we lost Cat (Rashawn Canady)," he said. "Pig is taking advantage of his opportunities. We like his energy."

The veteran players have been the core of the team.

"D.J. (Bryant) has been Mr. Consistent," he said, adding that Bryant can be relied on to hit a handful of 3-pointers per game. "We knew what he had with Tadric (Jackson), P.J. (Horne) and Boo (Ladarius Stewart)."

Before they play Valdosta, they take the court against a much-improved Colquitt.

The Packers, who lost 66-20 in Tifton, have been on a roll lately, winning four of their last six. The two losses have been by a combined eight points, including a 48-45 loss to Brunswick. Wins have come over Valdosta, Camden County, Coffee and Lowndes.

"Totally a different team," said Holland. He said he knew their coach, Andy Harden, would turn them into a contender, mentioning that they had big battles when Holland was at Turner County and Harden coached Worth County.

"They feel like they can win," he said.

This weekend's games will also give the Lady Devils to sweep a pair of opponents during the regular season. They upset Colquitt, 44-42, on Jan. 17 and after trailing most of the game against the Lady Wildcats, went on a run early in the 4th quarter to defeat Valdosta last week.

A big part of the Colquitt win was the shutdown of the team's leading scorer, Makeba Ponder. With Julie Conner using various combinations of players to slow her down, Sky Moore was given the assignment during the last minutes of the game. Ponder had 13 points, which was at that time a season low.

Seniors Alexis Johnson and Staceyanna Murrell hit big shots in the Valdosta contest.

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