THOMASVILLE — As the Christmas season wound down to a close, Thomasville welcomed in high schools from across South Georgia and North Florida on Thursday for the start of their end of the year Holiday Hoopfest. Three days of nonstop basketball. Teams in attendance included Thomas County Central, Lincoln, Valdosta, Munroe, North Florida Christian, Brooks County, Mitchell County, Miller County and Crossroads Academy.
Thomas County Central saw their first action of the tournament against North Florida Christian. The Yellow Jackets got off to a quick start as Colby Mullinax found Quincy Anderson for the corner three and Mullinax hit a turn around jumper to give Central a 9-0 lead. The Yellow Jackets looked to be bigger and faster than the Eagles, outpacing them in the first frame.
NFC didn’t hit their first basket until 3:40 left in the first, but poured it on after that. Excellent passing by the Eagles found an open man for a three and a break away lay up brought them within two. After the first quarter, Central held onto a slim 11-10 lead.
The second frame was much more even with TCC and NFC trading buckets. Mullinax came in clutch with a quick three to tie the game at 21 and found Mantrel Mosley in the interior for the bucket to give Central the lead. The Yellow Jackets took a hard earned 23-21 lead into halftime.
Central came out of the locker room on fire as Charlie Dunbar got the scoring started and Anderson followed with a pair of threes. The Central defense was doing an excellent job closing out on shooters, not giving them an inch of room to get a shot off. A put back and a one play from Decameron Duncan gave Central their largest lead of the game at ten.
Jermaine Dennis out muscled the Eagles for a big rebound and the put back score as the crowd flexed for him.
Central couldn’t seem to miss in the quarter, while the Eagles had trouble sinking free throws and, as the horn sounded on the third quarter, Central led comfortably 47-28.
NFC attempted a comeback in the fourth frame, at one point outscoring the Yellow Jackets 10-4 and cutting the lead to 12. Abe Smith would have none of that and drew the one opportunity to put the Jackets back up by 17. Central held onto their lead and took their first win of the tourney over North Florida Christian 62-50.
The Lady Bulldogs took the floor next hoping for a bounce back win against Lincoln. Things didn’t look good early and Lincoln came out hot and Thomasville was ice cold. Rhaniya Wilson would give the Lady Bulldogs their only point of the quarter as Thomasville was out scored 22-1 in the opening frame. It wasn’t for lack of open shots that Thomasville was down, they just couldn’t seem to finish. It’s an issue the Lady Bulldogs have battled with all season.
Lincoln looked crisp and clean in all phases of play, forcing multiple turnovers and knocking down their shots.
Thomasville picked things up in the second quarter, scoring 11 unanswered, including a big corner three to cut the Lincoln lead to ten. It felt as though Thomasville had found a rhythm as they outscored the Trojans 13-2 in the second frame and Lincoln led at the half 24-14.
The second half proved that this was a game of inconsistency as Lincoln came out firing once again. After scoring just 2 in the second quarter, the Trojans dropped ten on Thomasville in the opening three minutes of the third frame. The Lady Bulldogs struggled to find the basket and scored just two points in the opening minutes. Lincoln put up 19 in the quarter and built themselves a comfortable 23 point lead off of easy penetration and solid finishing in the paint.
Lincoln continued to score at a rapid pace, putting up another 12 points in the first four minutes of the final frame. Thomasville put up a decent fight, scoring 11 in the quarter, but ultimately came up short as the Trojans took the win 59-31.
Late into the night the Thomasville boys team took the floor for the final game of day one. The Bulldogs took on the Scorpions of Crossroad Academy. Crossroad built up a quick 8-0 lead as they opened the game with a three. Thomasville struggled to find a rhythm early on, but a rocket pass from Messiah Wilson to Nigel Pittman gave the Bulldogs their first points of the game.
Thomasville was faced with some unlucky foul calls and serious defensive pressure from the Scorpions as their scoring was slow, but an offensive rebound by Pittman off a missed free throw allowed Thomasville to cut the lead to two and gave the Bulldogs some momentum as they headed into the second quarter down 8-7.
Thomasville was able to outscore the Scorpions in the second frame, 12-8, and played very good defense. Crossroad cut the Thomasville lead to three with a buzzer-beating break away lay up and the Bulldogs took a 19-16 lead into halftime.
The second half started off at a fast pace and the game quickly became a back and forth affair. The lead rarely inched above one. Antonie Garland was getting it done for the Bulldogs, pulling off an acrobatic play to make it 32-31. Thomasville soon tied the game at 33, but Crossroad responded with a deep three to retake the lead. They extended their lead to five, but Thomasville responded with a three only for the Scorpions to take the ball down the floor and drain a three of their own.
Thomasville secured a break away score to tie the game and with just under four minutes left in this intense contest, it was tied at 40.
Both squads upped their defense and the scoring slowed. Thomasville began to feed 6’1 Keymon Jefferson down low and the big man dropped it in the bucket for the lead, but Crossroad would quickly respond with a there to take a one point lead into the final two minutes of play. Crossroad hit yet another three to go up by four, but Jefferson wasn’t done as he brought the Bulldogs back within two after sinking a pair of clutch free throws. With just under 30 seconds to go, Garland headed to the line to attempt to tie the game. He went 1-2 from the line, forcing the Bulldogs to intentionally foul down by one.
Soon down by three with 8.8 left on the clock, the Bulldogs had one final opportunity to send the game into overtime. The ball found its way to Xavier Burkes, who has had a solid season from beyond the arc, but he was swarmed by Scorpions and couldn’t get off a clean shot and, with that, Thomasville fell to Crossroad 48-45.