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January 31, 2014

Pelham sweeps Thomasville

THOMASVILLE — Ben Tillman’s eyes were as pink as his shirt, his brows slanted downward and his hands sulked to his knees as the clock dwindled in Thomasville’s 58-47 loss to visiting Pelham on Friday.

The Bulldogs’ coach personified the collective deameanor of his squad after a near win over the Hornets — a team that hasn’t lost a region game in two years.

“It’s hard to take that kind of loss,” Tillman said. “But one thing about it: we didn’t lose to a crappy team.”

The Bulldogs fell behind early and played catch-up for the bulk of the first three quarters before mounting a run towards the end.

Jakezmin King hit a three-point buzzer-beater at the end of the third period that brought the score to within three while the crowd erupted to their feet.

Pelham slowed the pace early in the fourth quarter to maintain its game plan of a moderate tempo attack.

“Normally, when we play a good team like Thomasville, it’s about making runs,” Pelham coach Laron Smith said. “You have to weather the storm. That was our outset: just relax and don’t lose focus.”

Pelham adjusted and began to run away in the final four minutes after an and-one foul conversion and an ensuing block, steal and score.

“We were just three or four minutes away,” Tillman said. “We’re not mature enough yet. We want to figure out ways to win tight ball games.”

It was a brute of a battle, with both teams trading blows for a combined 39 personal fouls — a statistic both coaches foreshadowed.

“Thomasville is very tough. We knew it was going to be a fight in here tonight,” Smith said. “We’ve got a big bull’s-eye on our back. We’ve got to come ready to play every night because our region is very tough.”

Tillman said he expects modest maturation from the Bulldogs before the 1-AA Region Tournament in two weeks, hopefully enough to earn a rematch with Pelham.

“We look forward to seeing them again,” he said.

The girls’ match was equally physical, but far more lopsided. Pelham ran away with a 76-37 win that was all but decided by halftime.

“They came out and played with intensity the whole 32 minutes and our girls didn’t,” Thomasville coach Antonio Wade said.  “They wanted it more than us.”

Wade also noted that the Bulldogs are suffering from the injury to Rikasha Johnson, who will undergo an MRI this week. He believes that regardless of the magnitude that Johnson will be out for the season.

Both teams host Fitzgerald today.

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