tom.mark@gaflnews.com



TIFTON - When the Tift County Blue Devils basketball team hits the floor Friday night at Stockbridge High School, the situation will be exactly the opposite of the one they faced last year in the first round of the AAAAA state basketball playoffs.

The Blue Devils, the number four seed from region 1-AAAAA will face the 2-AAAAA champion Morrow Mustangs at 8:30 Friday.

Last year Tift was the regular season and region tournament champion and entered the first round facing the number-four Jonesboro Cardinals, who promptly eliminated the Blue Devils.

"Maybe we need to go in as the number-four seed," said Tift head coach Tommy Blackshear. "Maybe it will allow us to refocus.

"Our main objective this season was to get back to this game."

The Blue Devils virtually owned the regular season sporting a 19-2 record as they approached the last week of the season. But back-to-back overtime losses to Coffee and Lowndes left the Blue Devils in a tie for first in the regular season region race. After losing the coin toss Tift went into the region tournament as the number-two seed.

Tift's fate didn't improve much at the region tournament in Douglas as the Blue Devils lost to Coffee in the semifinals and then to Lowndes in the consolation game.

"The people who have beaten us are as good or better than we are," Blackshear said. "And we were right there if we'd have gotten a break or two."

But Blackshear and his team have put the regular season and the region tournament behind them and are focusing on Friday night's contest.

"Even though Jonesboro beat Morrow twice in the regular season, Morrow is probably the most talented team in that region," said Blackshear who added that Friday's game should feature contrasting styles.

"They have a lot of depth," Blackshear said. "They'll play a lot of people and they will press you the whole game. They'll do whatever it takes to get the ball.

"You are either going to score or turn the ball over."

According to Blackshear, the Blue Devils will present a little more patient attack.

"We like to chase you a little bit, kind of wear you down and then try to beat you in the fourth quarter."

Although the Blue Devils have dropped four of their last six games, Blackshear appears to not be worried.

"We didn't set out at the beginning of the season to go undefeated," he said. "Our goal was to get back to this game and make up for last year.

"I'd trade all that we have done for a one-point win Friday night."



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