Lowndes Vikings head coach Kingston Clark picked a tough game to return to the bench.
Clark, who has missed the Vikings’ last few games with a blood clot, returned to the sideline on Tuesday and saw his team lose its second straight region game, 72-43 to the Tift County Blue Devils.
The Vikings have made a habit of falling behind against good teams early in games and mounting big second half comebacks. However, they’ve dug the hole too deep in their last two games.
After trailing Valdosta by 20 at the half on Friday, they ended up losing to the Wildcats by 43. They trailed the Blue Devils by 16 after two quarters on Tuesday and fell by 29.
Bryan Wright put on a spectacular show from beyond the arc in the first half, hitting five of his first six 3-point attempts to keep the Vikings even with the Blue Devils.
He hit a long three early in the second quarter while drawing a foul. He converted the four-point play to tie the game at 19-19.
Instead of lifting the Vikings, the play seemed to spark Tift County. The Blue Devils went on a commanding 18-0 run, before Wright finally snapped Lowndes’ scoreless streak with a pair of free throws.
During the run, the Blue Devils shrugged off Lowndes’ pressure defense and scored 12 points in the paint. They never even sniffed taking a jumper longer than 12 feet.
When it was over, the Blue Devils had a 37-19 lead. It was the second big run allowed by the Vikings in as many region games. The Wildcats went on a 23-0 run against Lowndes on Friday.
In the first meeting between the teams earlier this month, Lowndes overcame a 12-point deficit and beat the Blue Devils 61-60 in Valdosta.
There would be no magic for the Vikings in the rematch.
The Vikings scored a quick four points to start the third quarter, but the Blue Devils responded with a 10-0 run to go up by 22. Tadric Jackson and Malcolm Strozier converted back-to-back 3-point plays, and Tift County had an insurmountable lead.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils went on an 11-0 run to go up by 34.
Jackson led the Blue Devils with 15 points. T.J. Cromer added 13.
Wright scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half for Lowndes.
The Vikings fell to 2-2 in Region 1-AAAAA, while Tift County improved to 3-1.
Lowndes travels to Coffee on Friday.
Tift County 51, Vikettes 45
TIFTON — The Lady Devils made it a clean sweep in the regular season over the Vikettes.
Tift County went on an 11-0 run from 4:50 to 1:39 in the fourth quarter to win 51-45 and put the Vikettes away for the second time this season.
The Lady Devils all but put away the Vikettes’ hopes of winning the regular season Region 1-AAAAA title. They improved to 4-0 in the region, while the Vikettes fell to 1-3.
Tift County’s Jessica Covington led all scorers with 17 points. Maggie McGlamry led the Vikettes with 13 points, Natalia Adams scored 12 points and Danyelle Jones added nine.
The Vikettes fell behind by eight points early in the second quarter, but battled back to make it a five-point game at halftime. A 9-2 run in the third quarter, capped off by a jumper by McGlamry, briefly gave the Vikettes a 29-27 lead.
The two teams traded blows into the fourth quarter. Lowndes tied the game at 36-all when McGlamry buried another baseline jumper.
However, the next three minutes belonged to the Lady Devils. They went on their 11-0 run, with nine of those points coming from the free throw line. Meanwhile, the Vikettes struggled to get a basket or a rebound.
The Vikettes made it interesting late. Adams hit a pair of layups and Jones made a layup and a 3-pointer to cut Tift County’s lead to 48-45 with 30 seconds left.
But Lowndes’ comeback bid ended when Laken Johnson made one free throw and the Vikettes were unable to convert two layup chances on the other end.
The Lady Devils beat the Vikettes earlier this season at LHS in overtime. They now look like the team to beat, with half of their region games completed.
The Vikettes have a quick turnaround. They travel to Coffee on Friday.