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November 26, 2012

Panthers ready for home opener

TIFTON —  

The Tiftarea Academy Panthers are ready to get going. “We’re expecting 
an exciting year of basketball,” said girls coach Mike Patrick. 
They make their basketball home debut tonight with four games against the 
Citizens Christian Academy Patriots. The B-team girls game tips off at 4 p.m., 
with the B-team boys scheduled for 5:30. Varsity action is set to begin with the 
girls starting at 6 p.m. with the boys game to follow. 
The varsity squads have Patrick coaching the girls and Dan Henderson is in his 
first season with the boys. 
Patrick, who has been at the helm for the past three years, says the Lady 
Panthers “have a little experience.” 
His team graduated two seniors last year and only have three more this year — 
guard Rachel Thomason, forward Addi Cromer, and guard Katy Johnson. 
Of those, only Thomason starts, which she has done for two years. Joining her on 
the floor will be junior Jarrett McWhorter, junior Ali Rippy who is a three-year 
starter and junior Caitlyn Albritton, who has started two years. Patrick said 
the fifth starter will be either Neeli Fortson or MacKenzie McWhorter. 
“We’re expecting two tough games,” said Patrick, adding that a victory over the 
Lady Pats last year came on a buzzer-beater by Fortson. 
Tonight is their home opener, but the Lady Panthers actually kicked off their 
season last week, going 1-1 in tournament games played in Dawson. 
Turning his attention to the other varsity squad, he said “the boys team will be 
young,” but have several returning players. They also have Henderson as their 
coach. 
While Henderson is a first year head coach at Tiftarea, he brings a wealth of 
experience. Before coming out of retirement, his career included several years 
as Fitzgerald’s boys coach, leading them to appearances in the state playoffs 
from 1997-99 and in 2005-06. 
“He has done an excellent job,” said Patrick. “He said they had a good 
[training] camp.” 
Like the girls, the Panthers have few seniors on the roster, Kyle Benard and 
Pierce Lovett. Lovett is playing his first year of basketball, but has been a 
member of the golf team. 
Outside of the seniors, Henderson will have several key players to run the 
floor. 
Patrick listed junior guard Rob Flick, sophomore Trent Hobbs and freshman Ethan 
Mims as top players. Both Hobbs and Mims were in the starting lineup last year. 
Also playing are Sam Tucker, Taylor Folsom, junior Josh Hancock, sophomores Sam 
Varnadoe, Bailey Cunningham, Nathan DuVall, Jack Raines and Austin Stripling. 
All saw playing time last year. 
Another member of the Panthers team, but one who will not be in uniform tonight 
is Nathan Carswell, who was injured playing football. 
Tiftarea was originally slated to have more games Thursday against Westwood, but 
those have canceled as Westwood is still active with football. The next game on 
the slate has the Panthers and Lady Panthers traveling to Georgia Christian and 
Dasher next Tuesday, Dec. 4. 

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