Feb. 3—TIFTON — Caitlyn Burgess joined an elite club Friday and, for once, the Tift County Blue Devils had a drama-free 2nd half in a varsity sweep over Northside of Warner Robins.
Senior Night gave an extra bit of importance to each game. This was the last regular season home game for Tift County teams, who have Lee County and Houston County remaining, plus a solo night for the Blue Devils at Colquitt County.
Burgess' 1,000th came at 6:13 in the 3rd period, the second of two free throws. The game was stopped to recognize Burgess at center court.
The Lady Devils led 42-11 when Burgess hit the milestone. It was little better for Northside at any other time during the game.
With all four seniors starting, Tift scored the first 11 points of the contest.
Burgess, who entered needing 16 points for her thousand, scored 11 in the 1st quarter. Head coach Julie Conner-Johnson said her Burgess' teammates had a countdown going on the bench.
Tift was ahead 24-5 at the end of the 1st, then began the 2nd with consecutive points, reaching 34-5 at 3:42 on a Jalaya Miller put-back. Mariyah Batts had six points in the run on back-to-back triples.
Jimmya Cushion made 1 of 2 at the line to send the Lady Devils into halftime ahead 39-11 and with Burgess sitting at 997 career points.
Youth got plenty of playing time after Burgess reached 1,000. With the younger players in, Northside found some avenues for Taylor Johnson and Nyla Spencer to score.
Though Tift's lead was comfortable enough for a mercy rule 4th, Northside made it a little closer this time. Johnson closed the gap to 27 points (56-29) before Burgess closed out the contest with a layup.
Burgess scored 20 to pace Tift, and now sits at 1,004 points for her career. Faith Hillmon contributed 10.
Camiyah Hudson scored 10 for the Lady Eagles.
DEVILS 64, EAGLES 45
Tift County's 2nd halves have tested coaches' and fans' blood pressure in recent weeks. Stress levels were heightened at intermission; the Devils were up 16 points and had 16 minutes more to play. Could they hold the lead?
Yes, they could.
Northside thrice got as close as 13 points — two times in the 4th — Tift stayed cool and collected, even finishing out the game on a 5-0 run.
That the locals were going to hold firm this time showed evidence early in the 3rd quarter. Te'Shawn Bryant knocked down a 3-pointer on an assist from McKyler Horne.
Another sign did not fully present itself until the final seconds ticked away; Corey Howard picked up his fourth foul at 2:42 in the frame and stuck around until the end.
Northside's Kevon Milton made a 3-pointer with 1:20 to go in the 3rd, drawing to 43-30. While a big shot like that sometimes spelled trouble for Tift in earlier games, this time they finished off the quarter with baskets by Tristan Boone and Bryant. At 47-30 the lead felt a little more comfortable.
Jordan Gaines' jumper again got as close as 13 (51-38) with 5:20 to go. While the Devils didn't immediately respond they kept their composure, neither did Northside.
Howard was the next to score, a short jumper at 3:10. More clutch shots fell, including a floater by Malachi Evans that expanded the advantage to 19.
Up 14 with a minute left, Blackshear was confident enough to play the bench and they played their part well. Giovani Cleveland and Jalen White each got big receptions from the team as they came up with shots.
Northside only led for a bit of the 1st, their biggest being 8-5 on a Gaines triple. Fred White hit two straight from behind the arc for the Blue Devils go back ahead and only briefly did the Eagles tie afterwards.
Six points from Howard in the 2nd pushed the offense further, with McKyler Horne making it 25-15. Jaden Nelson ducked a defender for an easy shot in the last minute and it was a 34-18 game at halftime.
Three Devils landed in double figures for the evening. Bryant scored 14 points, Howard had 12 points and Fred White scored 10.
Gaines had nearly half of Northside's offense with 21 points.
Tift's record improved to 12-10, 3-5 in Region 1-6A.