MOULTRIE -- As Yogi Berra once said, it was "deja vu all over again" for the Tift County Blue Devils Friday night.
After 10 missed free throws in the final 53.4 seconds in their last region game against Lowndes, Tift missed three in the final 59.5 seconds against the Colquitt County Packers.
However, the Devils were able to hold on again for a 51-43 victory over the Packers. The win raised Tift's record to 15-0 on the year, 3-0 in league play. Colquitt dropped to 5-12, 1-3.
In the girls game, Tift County led 29-21 going into the fourth quarter. However, the Lady Packers came back with a 19-5 final period to take a 40-34 victory.
The ending and missed free throws in the Devil-Packer game was almost a copy of the Lowndes-Tift contest last Saturday. In that game, Lowndes sent Tift County to the line 10 times in the final 53.4 seconds and Tift made only three of the foul shots. That almost resulted in the Devils' first loss of the season as Tift escaped with a 42-41 victory.
"It is something we have to keep working on. From here on out, we are going to have people testing us at the free throw line," Blue Devil coach Robert Moore said. "I was just happy to get another region win. With a 15-0 record, every team is going to be on our back, playing their best game trying to knock us off from here on out."
Up 35-29 going into the fourth quarter, it seemed Tift was pulling away from the Packers. After a Dwight Tolbert dunk with 2:27 left in the game, Tift had a 48-33 lead.
Colquitt coach Keith Hall then instructed his team to foul the Devils. The Packers were called for three quick fouls to send Tift to the line in a bonus situation.
Ernest Taylor responded for Tift with 1:08 left in the game as he hit both ends of a one-and-one. However, Colquitt's Jeremy Debruce came down and hit a three-pointer with 1:02 left to make the score 50-38.
Tift's Kelvin Burns was then fouled. He missed the front end of an one-and-one with 59.5 seconds left. This time, Colquitt's Antwan Tuff came down to hit a three-pointer to make the score 50-41 with 46.1 seconds left.
However, that was as close as Colquitt would get as Tift's Louis Stready made one-of-three free throws over the final 39.6 seconds. Colquitt was only able to respond with two made free throws from Debruce.
Thomas Hightower led Tift with 18 points. Stanley Brownlee added 13, while Tolbert added 12.
Debruce led Colquitt with 18 points. Tuff added 11, while John Michael Hall scored 10. It was Hall's lowest point total of the season. He had been averaging 18.8 points per game.
In the girls game, Tift was doomed with missed layups.
The Lady Devils missed several shots close to the basket and according to Tift head coach Michelle Caldwell, "that was difference in the ball game."
She added, "there is no excuse for missing layups. We had to have missed 10 or 12 tonight and that is unacceptable."
Even with the missed layups, Tift led by eight entering the fourth quarter.
Colquitt sophomore Jessica Lemus proved to be the difference. She scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Lady Packers (11-6, 3-1) outscored Tift 19-5 on the way to the win.
Lemus ended the night with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
"If we had made layups, we would have probably been up eight at the half," Caldwell said. "Then we held them to only four points in the third quarter. The game should not have been close going into the fourth quarter."
She added, "however, you can't expect to score five points in the fourth quarter and expect to win. On top of that, we played soft defense. We played the same defense the entire night and 30 (Lemus) still ran wild on us in the fourth quarter."
Tift (11-5, 1-2) was led in scoring by Jessica Jenkins with eight. Adding seven points each were Justina Brownlee, Java Dawson and Ashtyn Gibbs.
Micole Sutton added 10 for Colquitt.
The Devils and Lady Devils will be back on the court tonight at home against Lowndes. The girls game will begin at 7 p.m.
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