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December 7, 2013

Devils, Westover split Friday games

TIFTON — There is rarely an occasion that a meeting between the Tift County Blue Devils and Westover Patriots does not turn into a barnburner and Friday night's games were no exception. The Lady Patriots won in double overtime, 51-44, but the Devil took the boys contest, 65-61, in a game that seemed even closer than that.

Despite the loss, it was an incredible comeback effort for the Lady Devils, who, after going up 6-4 at 1:20 in the 1st quarter, did not see another lead until 6:30 in the 4th.

The game started slow for both. Westover scored the game's first points after two minutes. Tift did not see the inside of the net until an Alexis Johnson bucket nearly 5 minutes into the game.

The score was knotted at 6 each at the end of the 1st. Tift added another 6 in the 2nd frame, but Westover scored 12 for an 18-12 halftime advantage.

Tift began picking up momentum in the 3rd, holding their opponent to 5 points. The lead had grown to as much as 8, but Johnson scored on consecutive trips down to the floor to half the gap. Staceyanna Murrell sank a jumper in the last 20 seconds to make it a 23-22 Westover advantage going into the 4th.

Both defenses played an outstanding game. The Lady Devils kept trotting out different sets to keep Westover off-guard, included a halfcourt defense that created one 10-second violation and nearly another before a timeout was called.

For their part, the Lady Pats were nearly impenetrable inside until late in the contest.

The Lady Devils finally managed to sustain the offense in the 4th. Seniors Murrell and Johnson provided most of the spark. Johnson even almost giving her team an insurmountable lead when she had a putback of a missed free throw by Audrey McElhaney. That made the game 34-29, but Westover scored 5 points in the last minute to send the game to overtime tied at 35.

Tift was up 3 in the 1st overtime, but the Lady Pats scored with 16 seconds left to send it to another extra period. This time, Westover took the advantage early and never let up for the 51-44 victory.

Johnson led the way with 16 points. She was joined by Murrell in double digits with 10. McElhaney added 9. Westover was led by Achanti Layfield (20) and Aubre'Ana Moore (11).

The boys contest was a battle from buzzer to buzzer. Both teams had a 5-point advantage at various times, but neither was to break away any further.

Westover had the lead at the end of each quarter, but could not overcome a furious Tift offensive front in the final period.

The Patriots, who were up 51-49, going into the 4th, built the advantage up to 5 again, but two straight baskets by Preston Horne made it a 1-point game. Westover kept hanging on to the slim margin, but missed a pair of free throws at 2:12.

Ladarius Stewart would then make 2 of his own to give them the lead 12 seconds later, then added a basket at 1:00 to make it 64-61. A 3-point miss was chased down by Tadric Jackson, who made 1 of 2 from the line to put the game out of reach.

Westover had the momentum early, getting a steal and a dunk to close out the 1st. Threes by Tyrie Jackson and D.J. Bryant gave them their 5-point lead, but the Pats proceeded to score 9 straight. Tadric Jackson's charity shot closed the run and made it a 33-30 Patriot advantage at the half.

Tadric Jackson scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Bryant had 15 and Horne 11. Green and Khalil Carson had 17 and 11, respectively, for Westover.

Tift County sent both teams up to Gwinnett County Saturday for a 3 p.m. doubleheader with the Buford Wolves.

They will be on the road next Friday to face the Thomasville Bulldogs. Wayne County will be their next home game on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.

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