Tift Girls defense difference in Palatka

Palatka, FL – You could hear the Tift coaching staff in Tifton Saturday night. The voices of Erick Willis, Courtney Mitchell, and Julie Conner sounded like it at least. Up by 7 at the break,  Tift would shut down a surge by Palatka with a full court press, and expand their lead with high percentage shots in the 4th to win 50-32.The Lady Devils entered the contest on a high after a huge comeback victory over Lowndes last Saturday night in Valdosta. With a 11-4 record on the season, Julie Conner’s tribe would hope to play well against some non-region foes in Florida this weekend as the Tift boys program competes in the Sugar Bowl Tournament in New Orleans.

Update: Correction:Their first stop, Palatka High School, was a stomping grounds for Coach Willis and his family. Coach Willis was able to spend some time with family and friends friends before and after the contest. Another strange item for a Georgia basketball fan, the girls played after the boy’s contest because normally in Florida if the boy’s team is home, the girl’s team is scheduled away.  It was unusual for me to see for sure.

Palatka’s program isn’t exactly a slouch squad either. Jason Shaw’s  Lady Panthers enjoy a 14-2 record and haven’t lost in their district play. Classified much like Georgia, Palatka is a 5A school, and is ranked 68th overall in all classifications.

The Lady Devils wasted no time getting to the hoop, and after a basket, found the entire game plan for the Lady Panthers would revolve around 6’2″ Center Jonell Williams, who has committed to Ole Miss. She was fouled and converted both to tie the game. But Tift was off to the races for the next 5 minutes, amassing a 9-2 run. Palatka, and primarily Williams, would find a way to beat the double teams in a collapsible zone inside the Tift defense in the closing minutes of the frame to trail by 3 as the distorted horn closed the period.

In the second, different players for the Lady Devils found the hoop. Sky Moore made steals and converted for layups as the Tift lead expanded again. Conner and her squad would find a 22-15 lead as they exited for the locker room. Dayana Chaney showed off her long distance dialing, hitting a big 3-pointer as the frame was winding down.

After a great dish from McElhaney, Moneisha Goldsborough skies for the finish. Goldsborough had 8 points in the 4th frame, leading Tift with 15 on the game. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

After a great dish from McElhaney, Moneisha Goldsborough skies for the finish. Goldsborough had 8 points in the 4th frame, leading Tift with 15 on the game. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Palatka would resurge after their halftime pep talk. They outscored Tift 11-9 in the frame to trail by 6 as the final period started. But Tift, who had reverted to a half-court trap for much of the third, again forced turnovers and steals from a stunned Lady Panther team. The Lady Devils would go a 19-7 run, and get the win. Shooting guard Audrey McElhaney showed a different side in the 4th, creating opportunities for her teammates with strong drives and great dishes. She finished below her normal scoring average with 14 points, but had a double-double working with 12 assists. Moneisha Goldsborough was a big target for McElhaney in the paint, as she hit for 6 points from the floor and converted two more from the stripe to lead the charge. Goldsborough would lead Tift with her 15 points on the evening, and Sky Moore finished with 10 points. Williams had 14 points before fouling out in the closing minutes for Palatka.

Vanity Golson did not play, as the coaching staff wanted to rest her in preparation for region play. Conner also was proud of Joslyn Reyes. Reyes started in place of Golson, and hit some early jumpers to start the first frame run for the Devils. She also did well defensively against a aggressive, scrappy team. Frankeshia Hill also saw quality minutes, playing against Williams in the paint in the first half as Goldsborough struggled with fouls.

Tift improves to 12-4, and will move up the road apiece to face Bartram Trail at 1PM today. Bartram Trail is 14-3 and is ranked as the 12th best team in Florida, according to Maxpreps. While they are 14-3, all three losses have come in 2015.

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