MACON — Dr. Eric Holland and the Tift County Blue Devils were undecided earlier this week on a hotel room in Macon. One might not be needed. They might have been able to simply float home. The final game of the 2013-14 season was played Saturday night at the Macon Centreplex and it ended with a No. 1 team crowned in Class AAAAAA. Ten years after their last championship game appearance and 18 since their one and only title, the Blue Devils added a second to the trophy case, defeating the Wheeler Wildcats, 63-49.
As has been the case all season, it was Tift's “big three” who made the difference. Tadric Jackson was the most noticeable on the floor, scoring 15 points. Ladarius Stewart, despite early foul trouble, scored 8 and led the team in minutes. D.J. Bryant was clutch behind the arc and especially at the free throw line. Eleven of his team-leading 22 came from the stripe.
Wheeler kept it tight most of the way, but their only lead of the game came on the game's first basket, which was accompanied by a free throw. That was at 7:38. At 5:19, Bryant hit a 3-pointer to tie. The Wildcats would tie it in the 2nd, but never could gain another advantage.
Going into the 4th, Tift was up by just five points, 33-28. It got tighter when Elijah Staley hit a short basket to make it a three point contest a minute in. But it was the Devils night to shine. D.J. Bryant shot a deep ball that rattled around the entirety of the rim. It was spinning out, then by some unknown gravity, managed to find its way through the net.
Up six, the Wildcats cut it back to three on a free throw by Avery Patterson, 36-33 but they were in trouble. Jaylen Brown picked up his fourth foul on a charge, then Trevin Steede was called for his fourth on a Preston Horne shot. Horne sank both charity shots. Brown scored again, but Wheeler had two straight possessions go against them, the second a blocked shot that was converted by Tadric Jackson, who sent an already dynamic Tift crowd into a frenzy when he delivered on a reverse layup at 4:00 to make it 44-35.