TIFTON -- The Tift County Lady Devils dug themselves into a hole Saturday afternoon in the first round of the state basketball playoffs. After only scoring eight points in the third quarter, the Lady Devils were down 47-30 against the Houston County Lady Bears going into the final period.

However, Tift fought back to cut the Houston lead to seven at one point in the fourth quarter. But, it was not enough as the Lady Bears emerged with 63-55 victory over Tift.

With the win, Houston advances to play in the second round next weekend in Macon against Riverdale.

"We dug a hole that was too deep for us to come out of," said Tift County coach Michelle Caldwell. "It was amazing though. We had a 25-point fourth quarter and we fought hard to battle back."

Houston's Tiffany Lewis hit a free throw with 1:00 left in the third quarter to make the score 47-30.

After not scoring in the final minute of the third, Tift answered quickly in the early part of the fourth quarter. The Lady Devils scored six points in the first 47 seconds of the period to make the score 47-36.

With 6:24, a three-pointer by Tift's Shelley Baxter made the score 49-39.

Houston then ran off to build the lead back up to as much as 13, before Tift came back on a 6-0 run late in the period. A hoop by Tift's Jill Dunn with 1:28 left in the game made the score 57-50.

However, that was as close as Tift would get as Houston made its free throws at the end to seal the victory.

"I am so proud of these girls. It would have been easy to cave in, but we didn't do it," said Caldwell afterwards.

Justina Brownlee led Tift with 17 points and nine rebounds. Jessica Jenkins added 10 points and six boards, while Java Dawson scored nine points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Dunn also had eight points and eight rebounds for the Lady Devils.

Lindsey Holmes had 17 to lead Houston County.

Tift ends the season with a 16-13 record. Every member of the team will return next season.

"We have no where to go but up, at least I hope so," said Caldwell.

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