Tifton Gazette

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March 6, 2014

Tucker’s team first to go to state finals

TIFTON — Looking back at history, the Blue Devils seem to like years that end in four. It is the year 2014 and they are in the state finals. Their last finals appearance was in 2004. Their first came in Class A in 1954.

The man in charge in those days was Fred Tucker. Tucker, who has been in teaching and athletics for eight decades, had Blue Devils boys hoops, track and assisted with football until he moved over to Randolph County. He had stops at Berrien and Irwin Academy until he landed back at Omega Elementary, where he continues to coach. Just Tuesday night, he was at a track meet in Fitzgerald.

He was with the team for the majority of the season, but said he missed the state tournament.

"My brother was dying of cancer," he said. Tucker left the team to join him in Colorado, turning over coaching duties to Alvin Davis. Davis was normally the head football coach.

"He did a good job," he said. That may be putting it mildly.

Davis' crew destroyed Elberton by 30 in the first round at Atlanta's O'Keefe High. Moving over to Bass High, they defeated Campbell (Fairburn), 62-55. The next day, they faced off against the state's other Campbell High, of Smyrna in the semifinals.

Campbell had a 19-game winning streak and had only lost two games. The Devils spotted them a seven-point lead in the 1st, 22-15. Two quarters later, they were up 47-38. Charles Markham had 23 points in the 59-54 win.

The season would end there, though. Matched up against defending champion Druid Hills in the finals, they fell 47-44.

Tifton did receive some help for that game. Tucker recalled that Wright Bazemore gave Davis some scouting advice for the championship. While not head coach at Valdosta that year, Bazemore had been recently and kept a grip on the team.

Valdosta had been the tournament favorite, sporting an undefeated record and having defeated the Devils twice in the regular season and another time in the region championship. Druid Hills had knocked them out in the semifinals.

According to the 1954 Talisman yearbook, the Blue Devils ended their year with a 25-7 mark. Two of the other losses were to Irwin County, the other to Hahira.

Home games back then were played at the old high school on Tift Avenue. Tucker's old gym is still standing behind it, most notably used on election days.

"I still get homesick when I get in there," he said. "Part of the floor is still there." It was not quite the modern facility used now. "It was cramped, very small. You'd run a fast break and you'd run out the door."

Markham was the top scorer on that team. The yearbook said he had 471 points. Ronald Hand was second with 340 with Lindsey Bass scoring 296. Bass was tough, he said. "He could go bear hunting with a switch."

Old Tifton High would reach the finals again in 1961 under Bud Smith, where they defeated by Headland, 49-46, in overtime. That would be the last finals appearance until Tommy Blackshear's championship in 1996.

 

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