On Saturday, Tift County was as good as advertised.
Tift won a battle of the top two boys basketball teams in Region 1-6A — and the two teams that have played in the last two Region 1-5A championship games — defeating Valdosta 86-57 in front of a standing-room only crowd at the TCHS gym. The win gives Tift a two-game lead in the region standings.
Tift excelled in nearly every area on Saturday, and walked away with a 29-point win.
The Tift boys are loaded with talent. They have a 6-foot-7 forward who has committed to Kansas (Brannen Greene). They have a junior point guard (Tadric Jackson) who could be a Division I signee next year. Several players who took the floor Saturday night looked like potential college prospects. Tift has six players who are 6-foot-4 or taller and four who are at least 6-foot-5.
On Saturday, they came ready to play. They shot the ball well from both the outside and the inside. They played tough defense, constantly putting a hand in the shooter's face. They used their size advantage to their advantage, playing a physical game, and with a trio of officials who chose to let the teams play and didn't call a lot of fouls, that was a huge advantage.
Valdosta matched Tift shot for shot in the first quarter, and led for a good portion of the period. After eight minutes, Tift held an 18-17 lead.
But midway through the second quarter, Tift took control of the game. TCHS was leading 30-29 with less than four minutes left in the first half when it suddenly caught fire. Jackson buried a three-pointer, then made two free throws on Tift's next possession. Ladarius Stewart made a layup, giving Tift a 37-29 lead, then Ali Vaughn made two free throws and Jackson drove the lane for a layup. Finally, Greene drained a three-pointer, completing a 14-0 run for Tift and making the score 44-29.
Tift led 42-31 at halftime.
Tift was leading 47-36 with 4:30 left in the third quarter when it went on another run. Donell Tuff got the ball and dunked it. Jackson made the first of two free throws, then D.J. Bryant grabbed the rebound after Jackson missed the second free throw and scored. Valdosta got two free throws by Rashad Lewis and a putback from Tra Barrett. Then Greene pushed a defender out of his way, got the ball near the top of the key and buried a three-pointer. Then Greene got the ball in transition and dunked. The teams traded jumpers, then Greene and Jackson scored on Tift's final two possessions of the third quarter. That 16-6 run extended Tift's lead to 22 points, 64-42, at the end of three quarters.
Tift added five more points to its lead in the fourth quarter, and extended its lead to 29 points at the end of the game.
The game was physical throughout, and tempers flared with 3:09 left in the game, after Valdosta's Jerahn Thomas was fouled by Jackson. A frustrated Thomas shoved Jackson back, and other players from both sides rushed in. The Valdosta and Tift coaches and the three officials quickly sprinted in and tried to separate everyone. Valdosta was assessed two technical fouls, and Greene made all four free throws afterwards.
Greene led all scorers with 27 points. Jackson had 21 points, and Bryant added 11 for Tift.
Lewis led Valdosta with 16 points. Thomas added 13.
The two teams will meet again next week in Valdosta.
Valdosta girls 48, Tift 36
The Lady Wildcats ended the Tift girls' 15-game winning streak with a 48-36 victory on Saturday.
Valdosta outscored Tift 20-4 in the last 11 minutes of the game, and pulled away for a 12-point region win.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, Tift held a 32-28 lead. But then Valdosta got hot and Tift went cold.
Valdosta's Shaneika Smith made a layup. With 19 seconds left in the quarter, Laquesha Newkirk tied the score with a jumper. Then Stormm Phillips stole the ball and made a pull-up jumper, and the Lady Wildcats headed to the fourth quarter holding a two-point lead, 34-32.
Valdosta's Destiny Covert started the fourth quarter scoring with a pair of baskets. Then Terri Oglesby completed the Lady Wildcats' 12-0 run with a turnaround jumper, extending Valdosta's lead to eight, 40-32, with 4:39 left in the game.
Brakia Bateman ended Tift's eight-plus minute scoring drought by making a hook shot while being fouled with 4:03 left in the game. But Oglesby answered with a layup at the other end. The teams went scoreless for the next two minutes, then Phillips' free throw with 1:31 left gave Valdosta a 43-34 lead. Dee Dee Deshazer make a basket for Tift. But the Lady Wildcats converted three free throws in the final minute, and Kaneshia Kimbrough's layup with 19 seconds left gave Valdosta its biggest lead of the game, 48-36, which turned out to be the final score.
The two teams went back and forth throughout the first half, with both teams holding several leads. Tift led 15-14 after one quarter, and Courtney Baker's basket with five seconds left in the first half gave Valdosta a one-point lead, 24-23, at halftime.
Tift regained the lead by scoring nine of the first 13 points of the third quarter. But then Valdosta took control of the game, and pulled away for a 12-point win.
Phillips led the Lady Wildcats with 16 points. Covert and Kimbrough had eight points apiece.
Alexis Johnson led Tift with 11 points. Bateman added 10.
On Saturday, Tift County was as good as advertised.
- Local Sports
VSU softball wins South Region, headed to nationals
For the third time in four years, and second in a row, Valdosta State’s softball team will play in the national championship tournament.
The Blazers won their third South Region championship Saturday, beating Alabama-Huntsville 8-3 in game three of the best-of-three series at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
VSU baseball season comes to an end
Delta State scored seven unanswered runs to defeat Valdosta State 7-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at the UT Baseball Field Saturday afternoon.
Blazers take 1-0 series lead
Angela O’Connor launched a pinch-hit two-run home run over the left-field fence, tying the game against Alabama-Huntsville in the bottom of the sixth inning, and sparking the Blazers and their fans along the way.
Blazer baseball stays alive, beats Stillman
Valdosta State scored five runs in the first inning to defeat Stillman 6-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at UT Baseball Field Friday morning.
Lowndes’ Harwell, Wortham sign with Valdosta State
Lowndes’ Ty Harwell and David Wortham won’t have to go far to play college baseball.
Blazers host respected rival UAH in Super Regional
One would expect a matchup featuring two of the top softball programs in Division II to come in the national championship game.
Unfortunately for Valdosta State and Alabama-Huntsville, who have combined to appear in four straight national championship games, they won’t be meeting in title game on Memorial Day in Salem, Va.
Pop Warner Football coming to Valdosta
Pop Warner Football is coming to Valdosta.
The nationally known organization that puts an emphasis on education and developing American youth has been established in the Valdosta area and will begin playing football this August.
Blazers lose to Delta State, fall to loser’s bracket
If the Valdosta State baseball team is going to win the South Region Tournament, the Blazers going to have to do it from the loser’s bracket.
The Blazers (33-17) dropped their first game of the tournament Thursday, falling to Delta State 4-2 at UT Baseball Stadium.
VSU will face Stillman College, which lost to No. 1 seed and tournament host Tampa Thursday, Friday at 11 a.m. to advance to the weekend portion of the tournament. The loser will be eliminated.
Lowndes’ Willis, Breit named Region 1 Coaches of the Year
The All-Region 1-AAAAAA soccer teams were announced Wednesday and Lowndes was well represented.
Lowndes coaches Chris Willis (girls) and Jordan Breit (boys) were named the Region Coaches of the Year, after leading the Lowndes teams to region championships and going undefeated in region play.
Vikings commit 4 errors, fall to Roswell, 5-2
The small things matter in baseball, especially in a winner-take-all game three.
On Wednesday, Lowndes’ baseball team made too many mistakes on the little things. The Vikings committed four errors that led to five Roswell runs and were eliminated in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a 5-2 loss to the Hornets.
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- VSU softball wins South Region, headed to nationals