Tift Avenges Split, edges Lady Cats 38-37

Moultrie – Playing in the region championship for the third time in as many years against Ed Wilcox, Julie Conner and her Lady Devils knew the game would be a war. Having beat the Valdosta Lady Cats in Valdosta but falling at home, the Lady Devils had a chip on their shoulders. Two very evenly matched teams tipped off and after 32 minutes of battle, Tift would garner a Region 1-AAAAAA Championship, and the #1 seed for the playoffs.

Off to a quick start, Tift would build a lead before the Lady Cats settled down, and battled back. Tift would have a 15-12 lead at the end of one, fueled by Vanity Golson and Moneisha Goldsborough who each have 4 in the frame. But at the break, the Cat ladies had trimmed the lead to one point, 22-21.

Freshman Kaysie Harrelson shoots over Valdosta's Tiaera Phillips (15) in the first half. Harrelson finished with 9 points, including a four point play in the fourth frame. Photo:Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Freshman Kaysie Harrelson shoots over Valdosta’s Tiaera Phillips (15) in the first half. Harrelson finished with 9 points, including a four point play in the fourth frame. Photo:Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Wilcox would have a pep talk, and his Lady Cats came out hot, jumping out to a 28-24 lead. But Tift would break out their press game, and create turnovers and points. Valdosta would take the quarter, holding the Lady Devils to just 5 points in a low scoring affair. As the final frame opened with a bucket lead for the Cats 29-27, Julie Conner began feeding the ball back to the paint. Guard Audrey McElhaney would drive the lane, but not get the foul calls she wanted as the quarter progressed. Freshman Kaysie Harrelson would provide a huge lift in the closing minutes. After a hard elbow to Moneisha Goldsborough as Valdosta was clearing a rebound put Goldsborough out with dental damage, Harrelson hit a huge three, got a foul called as the bucket hit, and converted the four point play. It wasn’t her first three of the evening, as the 5’11” center hit one in the second as well.

Valdosta had chances in the final minute but a stingy Tift defense contested every shot. The Lady Cats fouled Golson with 2.7 seconds, but Golson’s 1 and 1 missed and the Lady Cats couldn’t get a shot off in the time remaining.

McElhaney would lead Tift with 10 points, Harrelson added 9, and Golsborough and Golson 6 apiece. For Valdosta, Asia Harrison had the game high with 13 points. Valdosta falls to 19-8, and will be the #2 seed for Region 1-AAAAAA.  Tift improves to 20-6 and will host their first round contest, probably in a doubleheader with the Tift boys, who captured their third region championship in a row, and their 5th of the last 6, on Wednesday.

 

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