KINGSLAND - The state's longest boys basketball state tournament streak will continue.
The Tift County Blue Devils defeated Lowndes 37-28 in a Region 1 play-in game Tuesday at Camden County.
"All you want to do is survive," said head coach Xavier Holmes, chatting during the long bus ride home to Tifton. Surviving works for Tift, which has been to state every year since 1994.
The Devils will play again Thursday in the region semifinals against Colquitt County. The game, set to be in Moultrie, will tip off at 7:30 p.m., or after the Camden County-Colquitt County girls game. Colquitt and Tift split wins during the regular season.
Holmes called the first half an "offensive struggle." Neither team could get anything going during that time. Lowndes led 15-12 at the half, an advantage that expanded to as much as 23-14 in the third quarter.
But as has been the case all season, no lead is safe from Tift County.
"We made a small run," said Holmes. They cut it to 25-23 at the end of the period, a stretch that included a big shot by Jyamier Beckhom, who was fouled on a made three-pointer and then bucketed the free throw.
Once tied with the Vikings at 25-all, Tift didn't let go. Holmes said Lowndes did not score a basket during the final quarter.
Defense was key to the Blue Devils moving on, he said.
"No. 5 (DeAunte Hunter) couldn't score," said Holmes. Tift played a zone defense and Lowndes' guards were not able to hit from long-range to make up for the loss of points inside. J.J. Sims played well defensively, according to Holmes.
Other big plays on the offensive end of the court were a pair of big put-backs by Azaria Smith and Jatarion Warren. He said a Quay High three-pointer in the fourth gave the Devils a 34-25 lead.
"Our goal is handle business there," said Holmes of Thursday's game against Colquitt. "We want to compete and battle."
Tift now possesses the current longest state playoff appearance streak in the state. Dodge County's girls, which had gone every season since 1992, were eliminated in overtime Tuesday by Northeast (Macon), 89-88, in Region 3-AA competition.