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June 2, 2014

Next stop Tennessee for Lady Devils

TIFTON — Anyone wandering through Eighth Street Middle early Monday afternoon might have thought they were walking in on a slumber party. Pillows and blankets littered the ground in the hallway behind the gymnasium and a group of girls in matching shirts were checking their contents.

"Lady Devils Summer Camp 2014" is on the T-shirts. It is not a summer camp as seen on TV. Instead of making necklaces or shaping clay, these Tift County girls will be shooting baskets in Dayton, Tenn., part of the 2014 Girls Basketball Team Camp, an event sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and taking place at Bryan College.

There is a sleepaway aspect to it.

"We'll be bunking in dorms," said head coach Julie Conner. She said they had to bring their own sheets and pillows.

Six coaches are going, she said. Assistant Erick Willis added that the total body count was 33 humans. Space was at premium on the school bus responsible for getting them over the state line. While loading an endless stream of bags, Willis advises his athletes that they would be sitting two to a seat.

This is their second year participating in the event. More than 30 schools are sending teams, the majority from Tennessee. "It's one of the best competition level camps," she said.

They will have plenty of chances for competition. Divvied up into varsity and junior varsity, they are playing a combined 16 games. All of their opponents, save for one, is from the Volunteer State.

Basketball will not be the only thing on their minds. The camp, whose motto this year is, "all in," will feature a religious aspect as well. There is an evening praise and worship.

"It gets the whole girl, it gets their spiritual side," said Conner.

Today, the varsity plays White Station at 9:45 a.m., then Overton at 1:30 p.m. The junior varsity also plays at 9:45 against Tyner and then Richland at noon.

Wednesday the varsity plays Ridgeway, at 8:30 a.m. Their day then gets hectic, as they play Maplewood at 10:45, Rhea County at 12:15 p.m. and Mitchell of Memphis at 1:45. The junior varsity also has a game with Rhea at 10 a.m., plays Ooltewah at 11:30 a.m. and then gets Rhea's third team at 3:15 p.m.

On their final day of camp, the JV opens with Madison at 9:45 a.m., has another game at 1:30 p.m. and then finally sees a Georgia opponent, Rabun County at 3 p.m. the varsity plays Georgetown at 12:45 p.m. and Oakland at 3:45 p.m.

While the team plays Oakland, JV players and coaches might be loading the bus. The Lady Devils have an expected arrival time in Tifton of midnight that night. Conner said Willis would be the one driving the bus, coming and going.

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