The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta girls basketball team wrapped up their first regular season region championship in 11 years with a 56-42 victory over Tift County on Saturday at VHS.
The Lady Wildcats (20-4) and Tift (19-6) both finished with 9-3 records in Region 1-6A play, but Valdosta beat Tift twice, so the Lady Wildcats were named the regular season champions.
“It’s great to finish No. 1 in the region,” Valdosta head coach E.A. Wilcox said. “This is one of the things that you put on the chalkboard (as a goal). The next thing is going to the region tournament and trying to be No. 1. (Now) we want to be region tournament champions.”
The Lady ‘Cats benefited from balanced scoring on Saturday. Stormm Phillips led VHS with 12 points. Taylor Hauser scored 10 points (eight of them in the first quarter), Shaneika Smith had nine, Tiaera Phillips had eight and Terri Oglesby added seven.
“My girls gave it everything they had. They give me everything they have every time they play, especially when it’s a big game,” Wilcox said. “Stormm played good, Tiaera played good, Destiny (Covert) played big, Terri played big, Taylor Hauser knocked down some shots for me, (Kaneshia) Kimbrough played real good defense, Smith played really good defense. LeQuesha (Newkirk) came in and gave me some valuable minutes. Courtney (Baker) came in and did some good things as well. Everybody that played contributed.”
Three minutes into the game, the score was tied 4-4 when Hauser got an open look behind the arc and buried a three-pointer, giving the Lady Wildcats a 7-4 lead. No one knew it at the time, but Valdosta would hold the lead the rest of the game.
Later in the first quarter, Hauser made another three-pointer. Tift’s Dee Dee Deshazer answered with a three-pointer of her own, but Tiaera Phillips banked a shot off the glass as the buzzer sounded, giving the Lady Wildcats a 14-9 lead after one period.
The teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter. Valdosta maintained a five-point lead at halftime, 25-20.
Three times in the first three minutes of the second half, Tift cut Valdosta’s lead down to three points. But each time, the Lady Wildcats answered with a basket.
Valdosta was holding on to a 29-26 lead with about 4:15 left in the third quarter when Stormm Phillips grabbed a rebound, took off down the court on a 2-on-1 fast break and passed the ball to Smith for an easy layup. That started an 8-0 run for the Lady Wildcats, which turned a three-point lead into an 11-point lead, 37-26.
The Lady Wildcats led 40-28 heading into the fourth quarter, and they increased that lead to 15 points, 47-32, with 4:59 left to play. Valdosta held a double digit lead the rest of the game.
Valdosta will be the top seed in next week’s Region 1 tournament, which will be played at VHS. The Lady Wildcats and Tift, the No. 2 seed, both have automatic byes into the semifinals and are guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs.
Tift County boys 63, Valdosta 46
Tift County’s boys earned their second win over Valdosta in eight days, defeating the Wildcats 63-46 on Saturday.
Like they’d done the previous Saturday in Tifton, Tift County’s boys built a big first half lead that Valdosta was unable to come back from.
“They’ve put together a really good team,” Valdosta head coach Antonio Haynes said. “They’ve got some kids that can create their own shots. ... They’re very talented, well coached and, like I said, their team is well put together.”
“I thought (our) game plan was solid. We did a pretty good job in spots. But we (made a few mistakes),” he added.
Tift County forward Brannen Greene is a Division I signee — he’s going to Kansas next year — and junior point guard Tadric Jackson could be one next year. On Saturday, they were difference makers for Tift. Jackson scored 22 points, while Greene had 18. The rest of their team combined for just 23 points.
Three minutes into the game, Tift went on an 8-0 run, and took a 12-4 lead. That run helped TCHS build a seven-point lead, 16-9, at the end of one quarter.
Then Tift dominated the second quarter, and built a big halftime lead. Jackson started the period with a couple of baskets. Valdosta’s Clarence Smith made two free throws, but then Jackson converted a three-point play. A couple of minutes later, Jackson made a free throw and Smith answered with two free throws. Then in a span of 50 seconds, Greene drained a three-pointer, Ladarius Stewart scored on a putback and Jackson stole the ball twice and sprinted down the court for a dunk both times. The next two times Tift got the ball, Stewart made a basket and Greene hit another three-pointer. Valdosta did not make a field goal in the second quarter until Colin Kirkpatrick hit a jumper in the final minute of the period.
Tift outscored Valdosta 22-6 in the second quarter, and built a 38-15 halftime lead.
“I think our defense was solid, but I think (the problem) was our offense. We had trouble scoring (in the second quarter),” Haynes said.
Valdosta cut into the Tift lead in the third quarter. Early in the period, the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run, getting a layup by Smith, a jumper by Jerahn Thomas, a layup by Kirkpatrick and a three-pointer by Rashad Lewis. That cut the Wildcats’ 23-point deficit down to 14, 40-26. Tift scored six of the next eight points, but Valdosta answered with seven of the final nine points of the quarter, including a three-point play by Tra Barrett with 0.4 seconds left. Tift’s lead was down to 13 points, 48-35, heading into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they didn’t get much closer. After Kevin Ferrell’s finger roll made the score 48-37, Tift responded with a 15-3 run, with Greene scoring nine of those points. That bumped Tift’s lead back up to 23, 63-40, with 2:16 left in the game, and killed any hopes Valdosta had of a major comeback.
Smith led Valdosta with 16 points, but was the only Wildcat that scored in double figures.
Tift will be the No. 1 seed in the Region 1 tournament this week at VHS. Valdosta will be the No. 2 seed.