TIFTON -- After defeating Groves High 66-57 in the first round of the state Class AAAAA basketball playoffs in Savannah this past weekend, the Tift County Blue Devils will be in a more familiar place for the second round Friday.

The Devils will face the Tri-Cities High Bulldogs at 5:30 p.m. That second-round matchup will be at the Macon Coliseum, where Tift won twice last season on the way to the state finals. Besides being the place where the Devils won twice in the Coliseum last year, Macon is also the hometown of Tift County head coach Robert Moore.

"I really enjoy going back to Macon. ...I will have a lot of my hometown people there. Also, we did very well there last year. Macon has been good to us," Moore said.

Tift will be up against a Bulldogs team that has a 14-14 record on the year. Tri-Cities made the state tournament after upsetting Riverdale in the Region 2-AAAAA tournament. The Bulldogs then defeated Newnan, 74-50, in the first round of the state playoffs.

Sophomore Racentee Harris has led the Bulldogs during the postseason, averaging 15 points per game.

Harris and point guard Rashard Wise have each gotten more scoring looks as teams have been double-teaming senior Terrell Johnson. Wise is averaging eight points per game.

But, even with the double-teams, Johnson did put up 20 points in the game against Newnan.

"Their guard play has been really good. They are an athletic team that pushes the ball up the court. So, we have been working this week on getting back on defense," stated Moore. "They also are good on the boards. We will need to work extra hard rebounding against them."

Moore already knew a little about the Bulldogs as he is friends with Tri-Cities' head coach Albert Weeden. In his first year at Tri-Cities, Weeden previoiusly coached at Shaw High in Columbus.

"By knowing him, I already knew that Tri-Cities would play well together as a team. I have been telling our guys all week that we will have to play a complete 32-minute game against them. They won't back down," said Moore.

While Tri-Cities is 14-14, the Blue Devils will enter tomorrow afternoon's game with an 18-10 mark.

In the win over Groves, Tift got contributions from several different players.

Senior point guard Donnell Cullins is averaging 13.8 points, 4.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Against Groves, he had 14 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Junior Justin Brownlee is averaging 13.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He had 11 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots and five assists in the game against Groves.

Sophomore Jermale Hines also had a big game against Groves with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

While those three players are the leading scorers on the team, Moore emphasized that he has gotten contributions from every player on the squad.

"(For example), Earnest Taylor and Dastyn Baker each did an excellent job on defense against Groves' leading scorer (Kris Roberts). Everyone has a role and everyone has been playing their role well," Moore said.

The coach went on to add that practice this week has gone well.

"All of the attitudes are good. We have a chance to get back to the championship game. That is what we have wanted all year, a chance to get back to the championship game. These guys have their eyes on that prize," Moore said.

The winner of the game between Tift and Tri-Cities will face the winner of the Houston County-Stephenson contest in the quarterfinals. That game will be Saturday at 8:30 p.m. The winner of that contest will advance to the state Final Four at the Gwinnett Center Arena in Duluth, March 2-4.

Tomorrow's game will be broadcast on WTIF (107.5 FM).

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