Tifton Gazette

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March 29, 2014

Tift’s Jackson named Player of the Year

TIFTON — It was not just enough for the Tift County Blue Devils basketball team to win the state crown in 2014. They have added even more honors to their season, picking up The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's All-Classification Player of the Year with Tadric Jackson and Dr. Eric Holland winning the Class AAAAAA Coach of the Year award.

Another Devil, Ladarius Stewart, was named All-State honorable mention.

For a championship that had been so dominated by the metro Atlanta area until this year, the Devils have made this honor a habit. Brannen Greene won the award last year. Tift's win was the first for a non-metro team in the state's biggest classification since 1998. Just three teams have pulled off the accomplishment in the past 20; they have two of those.

A starter for all four years, it has been a steady climb up the ladder for Jackson on this particular all-state list.

As a freshman, he was honorable mention. His sophomore year saw him rise to 2nd team, then to 1st team as a junior. He averaged 18.8 points per game and has tallied over 2,000 for his career. He is naturally also a 1st team All-State pick as a senior.

Jackson's season best in points came on the court that will soon be his home, Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion. Against Norcross in the same semifinals, he scored 35, including 23 in the second half. That was nearly half of the team's 78-point total.

He signed with Tech just prior to the opening of the season, having committed to them in August. The Yellow Jackets were his choice over Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss.

Only six times over the 32 game of the season was he not the leading scorer. Despite being the focus of every team played, only twice did he score less than 10. Both of those contests were blowout wins over Lowndes and Colquitt.

Holland, who led the team to a 29-3 record, is no stranger to the state playoffs. This was his 10th consecutive appearance, five at Turner County and five with Tift. Of those seasons at state, he has been to the finals three times, with two more forays into the semifinals. Only twice has a team of his been dropped in their first game.

Shortly after winning the title, he said he felt confident in this season's crew since the beginning of the year. He said he believed they would have made it beyond the quarterfinals in 2013 (a year they finished 25-5) had it not been for an injury to Stewart.

He was also named as the South’s head coach in the GACA All-Star game.

Stewart, starting point guard, saved his best performances for last. Through the end of the region tournament, he was averaging 7.3 points per game. State began with a bang for him, as he posted a season high 17 against Tri-Cities. During the five games, he put up 12.6 per contest, nearly doubling his earlier figure.

The Journal-Constitution's list sports a few other names familiar to area fans. Nate Martin of Turner was named honorable mention in Class A while teammate Mylashia Yancey was 2nd team in the girls' division. Cook's Elesha Foster was also a 2nd team pick.

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