Blue Devils Fight Off Indians As Tift Advances To GHSA 7A Title Game With 56-49 Win Over McEachern
On Saturday, the Georgia High School Association 7A State playoffs continued as the Tift County High School Blue Devils faced the McEaachern Indians in the second semifinal game of the night. As the game began, Tift’s #5 Rashod Bateman would knock down a three point basket as the Blue Devils would go up 3-0. On the other end, McEachern’s #11 Babatunde Akingbola (14 pts) would answer with a two point basket to make it 3-2 game as Tift led with 4:57 to go in first. The Blue Devils would then score 4 unanswered points to take a 7-2 lead over the Indians but Akingbola would score another two point basket to make it 7-4 with 3:00 remaining in the first quarter.
As time would wind down in the quarter, both teams would exchange baskets keeping it at a three point advantage for the Blue Devils but a shooting drawn by Tift would have them making one of two free throws to take a 12-8 lead as the first quarter came to an end. In the second quarter, a steal by McEachern’s #2 Sharife Cooper would lead to a dunk by #35 Issac Okoro (15 pts) as the Indians now trailed 12-10 but Tift’s #24 P.J. Horne (17 pts) would answer back with a three point basket followed by a two point basket to make it a 17-10 game. Tift would then go on a 6-2 run to make it a 23-12 game with 3:40 remaining in the first half. After a McEachern timeout, the Blue Devils would go on a 7-4 run to close out the first half with 30-16 lead over the Indians.
At the start of the third quarter, the Blue Devil’s #1 Fred Floyd opened up the second half with a two point basket for Tift to go up 32-16 but McEachern would go on 8-0 run to make it a 32-24 game but Tift’s Bateman would knock down a three point basket to lift the Blue Devils up 35-24 with 5:05 to go. After a Tift timeout, the Indians would score 5 unanswered points to cut the Tift lead down to 35-29. As the quarter continued, the Indians managed to cut the Tift lead down to 5 and keep it there as they trailed 38-33 at the end of the third quarter. The Blue Devils would open up the fourth quarter scoring the first four points to go up 42-33 with 5:15 to go in the game.
The Indians would then apply defensive pressure which would allow them to go on a 6-2 run cutting the Blue Devils lead down to 3 as Tift led 44-41 with 2:58 to go as the Indians called timeout. As play continued, Tift’s Horn would lift the Blue Devils 48-42 but McEachern’s Okoro would answer with a three point basket to make it a 48-45 game with 1:55 remaining as the Indians would call timeout. On the ensuing inbounds play, Tift would break through the Indians press to get a two point basket from #2 Micah Johnson (15 pts) to go up 50-45 with 1:29 remaining and Tift calling timeout.
Out of the timeout, McEachern’s #14 Brandon Suggs would score a two point put back basket to make it a 50-47 game but a fifth foul on the Indian’s Okoro would send Tift to the line as they would make one of two and go up 51-47. Up 53-47 with :47 to go, the Blue Devils would be sent to the line once again making both foul shots to go up 55-47 with :30 remaining in the game and Tift would go on to win by a final score of 56-49. Tift will face Norcross in the GHSA 7A Championship game next Saturday.