Lady Devils lash Lee County

Jan. 14—TIFTON — A pair of top 10-ranked high school basketball programs played at Tift County High Saturday night for Winter Homecoming, both showing their power. The Tift County Lady Devils, No. 3i in MaxPreps' Class 6A rankings, destroyed visiting Lee County, 58-18.

Lee's boys, No. 3 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's and MaxPreps' 6A column, used plenty of interior muscle in winning over the Blue Devils, 54-42.

The Lady Devils (13-3), whom the AJC considers No. 8 in 6A, had no troubles whatsoever with Lee, racing out to a 19-0 lead in the opening stanza and were up 28-4 at halftime.

Lee only made five field goals in the game, three of them coming in the 3rd quarter. The only mercy the Lady Trojans received was the shortened 4th quarter clock because Tift was up 35 points (50-15).

The biggest problem for the visiting Lady Trojans was Tift's swirling, swarming defense. Full-court and half-court defensive sets were equally impressive.

Jimmya Cushion sank a long 3-pointer to open the game off an assist by Makayla Bryant. Seconds later, Caitlyn Burgess converted a steal into an easy layup. When Lee did get a chance to set up offensively, they did so tentatively, far outside the arc. They had good reason to worry about what lay inside it; three Lady Devils swatted shots in the1st: Bryant, Faith Hillmon and Jalaya Miller.

Tift needed less than three minutes to go up 10-0, fast breaks providing all seven of their points after the possession off the tip. Cushion fed Miller underneath, then Cushion got a steal and bucket for herself.

With a minute to go in the frame, Bryant assisted Cushion for another triple for a 17-0 lead. Lee came painfully close to being shut out in the quarter, but Kadance Flowers threw up a three that found the mark with five seconds to spare.

The Lady Trojans had even more struggles on offense in the 2nd period. Their only point was a Flowers free throw with 15 seconds remaining. Tift's offense slowed during the eight minutes, but they still utterly frustrated their opponent. Bryant led another fast break that resulted in Cushion points and Hillmon delivered another big block.

Lee's best period was the 3rd, with 11 points, but it was also's Tift's best — 22 markers.

Miller got the Lady Devils over the 30-point threshold for a 4th quarter mercy rule at 4:44 in the 3rd, a pair of free throws following a Burgess steal. Many of Tift's points were in the paint during this period, Hillmon giving them an even 50 on a beautiful pass to the post by Makala Horne.

Kennedy Patrick finished up the 3rd with a three for Lee, but it was far too late to avoid the shortened 4th.

Mixing bench and starters, Tift outscored Lee in the 4th, 8-3. Jalaiah Rainey's basket was their largest lead, 58-16.

Burgess finished the game with 17 points, with Cushion at 16 and Miller with 15. Hillmon barely missed double-digits with 8 points.

Patrick's 7 points led Lee, all scored in the 3rd quarter.


Few teams Tift has seen this have matched their height. Lee is an even more rarified group that has the bulk to go along with it.

Head coach Tommy Blackshear bemoaned after the game how many points the Trojans scored inside, either in the post or on offensive rebounds.

Though inexperienced, the Blue Devils hung with Lee most of the way. Even after Lee took a 26-16 lead in the 2nd quarter, Tift worked their way back to a 28-27 deficit in the 3rd.

But Lee's forwards had as much muscle as their offensive line this season. The Trojans went ahead seven on the strength of four points from Braden Moore and a dunk by Josiah Parker. Tift got a pair of free throws by J.J. Lamar and almost had it worked down to a three-point deficit again, but a Kaden Lawson basket was disallowed for offensive goaltending.

The Devils were potentially within striking distance at the end of the 3rd,, 38-32, which ended with Corey Howard making a free throw as he was fouled trying to beat the buzzer.

Parker and Moore struck again, however, at the start of the 4th and though Howard countered with a jumper from the free throw line, the game began slipping away. Matthew Hardwick was fouled on a made basket, then picked up another free throw.

Malachi Evans' jumper at 2:44 cut the lead to 50-40, the last time Tift was that close.

Lee's size presented problems early on, but the Blue Devils found ways around that throughout the game with constant motion, often getting a free man in the post. Though they never led in the game, three times in the 1st, they pulled to within a point — Te'Shawn Bryant on an assist from Lawson Lawson on the glass and Evans on a jump shot.

Evans' shot closed to 11-10 at 1:07. A dunk by Parker and deep Moore three put them ahead 16-10 at quarter's end.

The Trojans used a steady march of free throws in the 2nd for a 26-16 score at 3:29, Tift slightly closer at the half at 28-20 on a Howard basket.

A 7-0 Devils run opened the 3rd. Jaden Nelson made a three off an assist from Evans, Lawson posted up and Bryant made a pair at the stripe to pull to 28-27.

Bryant and Lawson finished with 10 apiece for Tift, now 8-7 on the year to Lee's 13-2. Howard added 9 points.

Saturday was the second ever Winter Homecoming staged by Tift County High.

At halftime of the girls game, Homecoming King Kevin Depaz was honored, as well as other males on the homecoming court.

The 2014 state champion Blue Devils basketball team was honored between games, Blackshear handing out certificates to each member in attendance. Dr. Eric Holland, head coach of that team, making the long trip down from Rome, received the loudest applause, closely followed by the late Anthony Bateman, an assistant on that team.

Tift won the state title against Wheeler in 2014, 63-49, and finished 29-3 overall.

Between halves of the boys game, current and alumni TCHS cheerleaders came together for a cheer-off at midcourt.