2-Pt Heartbreak, Lady Devils fall in OT

Tifton – After defeating Lovejoy 33-29 in the first round of the GHSA AAAAAA State Playoffs, the Tift County Lady Blue Devils played host to powerhouse Archer High School Lady Tigers Friday night.  The Lady Devils entered the contest at 20-7 and Archer at 24-5, coming off a lopsided victory over Duluth in the first round, 73-40.  Archer boasts Division I talent at each position on the floor, including Amber Skidgel who will be playing for Andy Landers at the University of Georgia next season.

Senior Moneisha Goldsborough gave everything in her final game as a Lady Devil, finishing with 15 and 17 rebounds in the overtime loss to Archer. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

Senior Moneisha Goldsborough gave everything in her final game as a Lady Devil, finishing with 15 and 17 rebounds in the overtime loss to Archer. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

In what appeared to be a daunting task for the Lady Devils to even step on the floor with Archer, soon became a slugfest of epic proportions between two high level basketball programs.  The Lady Devils brought their blue collar grit while Archer appeared to exude what can only be described as a superior attitude and swagger.  Coach Julie Connors and staff had a game plan and stuck to it, leading to an unbelievable back and forth match up through all four quarters and then some.

In the first quarter, the Lady Devils were paced by great team man to man defense, preventing Archer from getting any easy looks at the basket and it showed with frustration on their faces and body language.  This would be a common theme as Archer had to work for every shot attempt they took on the night.  Vanity Golson had 6 in the first quarter leading to a 10-10 tie heading into the second quarter.  Tift missed several shots in their offense after moving the ball extremely well against Archer’s matchup zone but their defensive prowess kept the Lady Devils in the game.

Archer opened up the second quarter in a press and senior guard Sky Moore immediately went to work passing and cutting leading to an easy layup and foul for Audrey McElhaney.  The Lady Tigers tried again to press but again the Lady Devils broke it but missed the layup.  After failing to press Archer decided to go pressure man to man defense in the half court and the fouls started to mount as they could not keep the Lady Devils in front of them.  Tift failed to capitalize at the line in a seesaw battle throughout the quarter and went into halftime trailing 21-20, easily one of the lowest scoring outputs for Archer in a half this season.

Tift came out in the second half with a classic stall offense trying to anticipate a run by Archer and forced them out of their tight zone defense.  Archer was forced to alter their defensive adjustments to counter.  Enter the law firm of McElhaney and Goldsborough.  They carried the Lady Devils offensively with superior ball movement and hitting tough shots in and out of the lane with the support of their teammates.  Archer did not go quietly as Linsey Marchese led the charge for the Lady Tigers equaling the exploits of Goldsborough throughout the half with some impressive turn around shots.  Amber Skidgel continued to bomb away from downtown hitting five total three pointers in the game.  At the conclusion of the third quarter Archer was still up one, 33-32.

McElhaney and Goldsborough continued their onslaught of the Archer defense into the fourth quarter.  The Lady Devils matched every basket with Archer and eventually took the lead 44-42 with 1:11 remaining in regulation with the help of freshman Kaysie Harrelson entering the game when dependable perimeter player Dail Adaway went down with an ankle injury midway through the period.  With only seconds remaining and the lead, Tift lost the ball after inbounding it and gave Archer a glimmer of hope to at least tie the game.  Senior point guard for Archer, Madison Newby went to the line with six seconds remaining and knocked down two clutch free throws to tie the game.  Just when you thought the game was headed to overtime, Audrey McElhaney goes coast to coast on the inbounds but missed the layup and although there appeared to be contact, no foul was called.  Overtime here we come.

Harrelson opened the overtime with a huge three pointer for the Lady Devils looking like a seasoned veteran who had shed her freshman class label at this point in the game.  On weary legs at this point in the game, expending maximum effort on the defensive end the Lady Devils were still in the bonus rolled over from the fourth quarter.  It was a tale of free throws in overtime as Tift went 1-4 from the charity stripe and Archer was 4-7.  The Lady Devils missed an opportunity late in overtime in the paint with Goldsborough and Archer made headway with another lay up from Madison Newby with 6.1 seconds putting the Lady Tigers up for good, 50-48.

Tift County played every second of the game to their maximum effort but came up just short in the end.  The Lady Devils had nothing to hang their head about after a performance of the ages against one of the state’s perennial powers in high school basketball.  A free throw here and layup there, maybe there was a different outcome, regardless the Lady Devils grinded until the end and made Archer think twice about ever entering the Devil’s Den again.

Audrey McElhaney led all scorers with 16 points and several clutch defensive plays.  Senior center Moneisha Goldsborough had a monster game in the paint and even showed some range on a 15 foot jump shot in the fourth quarter, finishing with 15 points and 17 rebounds.  Vanity Golson rounded out the top three scorers for the Lady Devils with 8 points.

John Allen Popham has been a contributor with SGSN for several years, and is the Girl’s Varsity Basketball coach at Worth County. 

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