The Tift County Blue Devils used a second half explosion to coast their way past the Tri-Cities Bulldogs Saturday night, 70-49, to advance to the second round of the Class AAAAAA state basketball tournament. The Devils, now 25-3, will next face Lovejoy Tuesday night, according to scores posted on Score Atlanta.
The Devils had problems early on matching up with the Bulldogs, thanks to the height of Shawntrez Davis. But he would be neutralized in the 3rd quarter and the outside shooting game which had kept Tri-Cities in it, grew cold.
During the decisive 3rd, they held Tri-Cities to a scoreless streak lasting nearly four minutes and more importantly, it gave Tadric Jackson a chance to take control.
Tadric Jackson had only five points at the half and hit only two more baskets in the 3rd, but that was only a preview of what was to come. Tift put up its biggest points total in the 4th quarter (27) and he had nine of them, including a a pair of slam dunks.
Up by a mere seven points at the break, the Devils started the 3rd with a jumper. Both squads stayed mostly quiet for a few minutes, then a dunk by Tadric Jackson seemed to energize the team. Davis scored to make it 36-28, but Tift went on 7-0 run that featured five points from Ladarius Stewart. They led 43-31 headed to the 4th.
The Devils' whole offense showed up in the 4th. Other than Tadric Jackson's nine, D.J. Bryant hit a shot from behind the arc, Preston Horne had a tip-in basket among four points and Stewart scored four more.
Stewart and Bryant were the ones keying the offense in the 1st half. Bryant's first quarter featured four 3-pointers. Three came in the 1st, including a triple at 1:14 that made it an 18-7 game.
Tri-Cities fought their way back in. Down by 10, Emmanuel Rainey had a three of his own, then another one a minute later to cut the score to 22-16. Bryant boosted the lead to 11 three minutes later, but the Bulldogs stayed alive thanks to a pair of shots by Karim Wallace.
The Devils did have a chance to go up by double-digits to end the half, but leading 31-22, Tyrie Jackson's attempt to drain the clock went awry. He lost possession, resulting in a jump ball with 31 seconds left. The Bulldogs themselves lost it out of bounds with 3.9 seconds, but Davis tipped the inbounds pass. Charles Stokes stole the ball and missed a shot, but was quick enough to grab the rebound and put it back in as time expired, closing the gap to 31-24.
Stewart and Tadric Jackson each had 17 points to lead Tift County with Horne and Bryant each contributing 15. Railey was the only man to score more than 10 for Tri-Cities. He had 16. Wallace had 6 and Stokes scored 5.
Lovejoy advanced to the second round courtesy of a 58-56 win over South Cobb Saturday night, according to Score Atlanta.
The Tift County Lady Devils learned their Monday night opponent Saturday. They will be facing the Marietta Lady Blue Devils on the road at 6 p.m. Marietta won by seven over Luella.