Combining boys and girls squads, there are only 64 teams left playing basketball in Class AAAAA. Those 64 will begin the state tournament this weekend at various sites throughout the state.
Tift County High will be one school that will have both sides of the tournament covered as the Lady Devils and Blue Devils have advanced.
However, that is where the similarity ends.
The Lady Devils will have one of the toughest first round draws in the state.
Coach Michelle Caldwell's team will open with the Beach High Lady Bulldogs. Beach went 25-2 this past season, went 18-0 in Region 3-AAAAA and the Lady Bulldogs won their three region tournament games by an average of 25 points.
They have two 6-foot-2 players, Danielle Taylor and Christy Marshall. A senior, Taylor has already signed with the University of Georgia, while Marshall is being recruited by Tennessee, among other schools.
In comparison, Tift went 16-12 this past year and will enter the state tournament after two straight losses in the Region 1-AAAAA tournament.
With all of that being said, Tift could be in a good position. With nothing to lose, the Lady Devils may finally play loose.
At times this year, Tift has played some very good basketball.
They go out and run, hustle and get after their opponent. They then appear to notice they are playing well and it seems to put them in a shell.
Caldwell put it well when she said after a recent game, "We were playing like we didn't want to lose, instead of playing to win."
If the Lady Devils can finally put together that complete game, they could give Beach a scare. From what I have read, the rest of the teams in Region 3-AAAAA don't have much size and the Lady Bulldogs have had it pretty much their way on the inside.
With Jill Dunn, Java Dawson and Lindsay Welker, the Lady Devils have the players who can match up at least size wise with Taylor and Marshall.
Dunn and Dawson have not had Tennessee coach Pat Summitt watching them play this year, but they can be ornery when they have to be. If Taylor and Marshall haven't had to put up a fight this year, that could cause them some problems.
On the other hand, Welker is still developing. She is only a freshman, but there is no telling how good she can be by the time she is a senior. But, even now, she has shown she plays well against quality competition.
Tift County will also need to have a big game from Justina Brownlee to have a chance at an upset. She was playing well for most of the latter part of the season, but Saturday against Coffee, Brownlee looked timid. She has to play and most of all, have fun, to be successful.
Jessica Jenkins will also need to be at the top of her game. With her ability to drive, she may be able to get into the lane and give Beach's "twin towers" some trouble.
But, even with all of that, it will be difficult for Tift to have a chance. They just need to go in and have fun. They need to play like they have nothing to lose, which they don't and just let things fall where they may.
On the other side, the Blue Devils have a favorable draw.
They will be on the road Saturday night against Groves, a good team that finished second in 3-AAAAA. But, if the Devils play, they can be very competitive in that game.
That is the same for the rest of the Devils' bracket. Until the final four, the Devils can be competitive with every team they could face.
Of course, the final four would probably bring the Devils face-to-face with South Gwinnett again, but as a basketball fan it would be fun to see Louis Williams and the boys again.
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REDDING [mdash] Charles Emory Parrish, age 79, passed away peacefully on October 1, 2020 with his daughter by his side. He was born in Florida and grew up in Tifton, Georgia to Lois and Tom Parrish. He joined the Navy in 1964. During his service he earned four medals and was deployed to Viet…