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February 9, 2013

Valdosta sweeps Thomas County Central

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta boys basketball team gave their head coach a nice gift on Friday — a victory.

Valdosta defeated Thomas County Central 60-51 on Friday night, and ended a three-game losing streak.

The Wildcats outscored Central 8-2 over the last three minutes of the game, and held off a fourth quarter rally by the Yellow Jackets.

“We needed (a win),” said Valdosta head coach Antonio Haynes, who was celebrating his birthday on Friday. “We’d been on a slide, so we needed one, just to get back in the win column. Whenever you get a win, it’s always good.

“We’re happy with the win. Thomas County Central came to play, and we needed that test before going into tomorrow.”

Valdosta held a 50-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Wildcats had outscored Central 21-14 in the third quarter, and had taken their

 biggest lead of the night late in the period.

But then Central scored six of the first eight points of the fourth quarter, and cut the Wildcats’ lead down to three points, 52-49, with less than three minutes remaining on the clock.

However, the Wildcats wouldn’t let the Yellow Jackets get any closer.

Valdosta missed a shot, but Kevin Ferrell jumped and grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled while pulling down the rebound. Ferrell fell hard to the floor and had to leave the game, and Coy Roberts stepped to the line in his place and made the first free throw. Tra Barrett made a layup, then stole the ball away from a Central player. Valdosta’s Clarence Smith got fouled on the Wildcats’ next two possessions, and made three of four free throws (the other free throw was good, but was wiped out by a lane violation). That 6-0 run increased the Wildcats’ lead back to nine, 58-49, with 1:02 left on the clock.

Two free throws by TCC’s Allen Wade made it a seven-point game. But 25 seconds later, Valdosta’s Rashad Lewis made a long pass to beat the press, and found Barrett all alone for an easy layup to put the game away.

The last time the Wildcats had played the Yellow Jackets, Valdosta had won by 20 points, 64-44. But this time, Thomas County Central gave Valdosta a battle.

Valdosta went on a 10-2 run at the end of the first quarter, with Jan Zeman scoring half of the points, and turned a 10-9 deficit into a 19-12 lead after one period.

But Thomas County Central fought right back, going on an 8-0 run midway through the second quarter and taking a four-point lead, 29-25. Valdosta scored the last two baskets of the first half, and at halftime, the score was tied 29-29.

Two minutes into the third quarter, with the Yellow Jackets leading 33-31, Ferrell made two free throws, then 15 seconds later, Smith converted a three-point play, putting the Wildcats back on top, 36-33. TCC’s Chris Jones made a jumper, but Valdosta’s Jerahn Thomas answered with a jumper of his own. Then Smith made a layup to complete a 9-2 run and extend the Wildcats’ lead to 40-35. Valdosta led by seven, 50-43, heading into the fourth quarter.

Smith led the Wildcats with 18 points. He was the only Valdosta player to score in double figures.

Deondre Cooksey led Thomas County Central with 13 points. Austin Bryant added 10.

At halftime, Haynes was given an oversized birthday card by the team’s managers, one of whom also sung Happy Birthday to him.

Valdosta will host Tift County today at 7:30 p.m. in a big Region 1-6A game.

“Tomorrow is a really big game,” Haynes said after Friday’s game. “I urge all of our fans to come out tomorrow. I want a big crowd of the black and gold nation to come (support us), and hopefully we can get a win.”

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