MOULTRIE — The Colquitt County girls will take a four-game winning streak into their meeting with Tift County at 7 tonight at the Gladys Espy Gymnasium, but may face their biggest challenge so far this season.

The Lady Packers, 11-4 overall, sit atop the region standings with a 3-0 mark, but the Lady Devils were ranked No. 11 in Class AAAAA in one recent poll and are likely to be focused after a 45-37 loss to Lowndes on Tuesday at the Charles Cooper Gymnasium at Lowndes.

The Vikettes were able to contain Tift County’s high-scoring Lindsay Welker, who had scored 16 points on Saturday against Cook and 17 in the night before in a region win over Valdosta. Welker had just five on Tuesday.

But the Lady Devils, 12-4 overall and 1-1 in the region, will continue to be patient on offense, tenacious on defense and make few mistakes.

Tift County also counts on seniors Jessica Jenkins, who had 16 against Lowndes, and Justina Brownlee, who had 11 on Tuesday.

Brownlee missed five games earlier this season because of an ankle injury, but appears to have recovered.

Ashtyn Gibbs and Kaneshia Brown are strong defensively for the Michelle Caldwell-coached Lady Devils, and Imesha Wells gives the team some outstanding athleticism.

Colquitt’s girls have not lost since the holiday break, beating Thomas County Central, Houston County, Valdosta and Coffee and have won six of their last seven.

One of the keys for the Lady Packers has been the emergence of Taquella Coates as a scorer and rebounder.

After scoring eight points against Worth County on Dec. 10, the 6-foot sophomore was averaging 5.9 points a game.

In the seven games since, she has scored 101 points, an average of 14.4 points, and now has her season average up to 9.9 points a game.

Coates scored 19 points in the 56-33 victory over Valdosta on Saturday and had a career-high 20 in the 66-53 win over Coffee on Tuesday.

“She gives another option,” said Packers coach Joe Parker, who noted that Coates was not much of a factor when the Lady Devils defeated his team by two points back on Nov. 19. “People can’t just double down on Jessica (Lemus).

“And she’s been giving us seven, eight, nine, 10 rebounds a game.”

Lemus turned in her best offensive performance of the season on Tuesday against Coffee. The All-Region senior post player, still recovering from knee surgery last May, got her first basket just 15 seconds into the game and went on to score a season-high 15 points.

“She did some stuff against Coffee she hadn’t done in a while,” Parker said.

Lemus has continued to play outstanding post defense all season.

Dorothy Strong will continue to do much of the ball-handling for the Lady Packers and is averaging 6.8 points a game.

Nikki Hudson and Ashley Stafford will be on the wings. Hudson is averaging 6.7 points a game and Stafford averages 10.3 and also continues to give the Lady Packers sparks with her defense, assists and rebounding.

Lady Packers coach Joe Parker has been getting outstanding play from his bench, especially freshman Nicolle Thomas and sophomores Laquita Smith and Tiffany Troupe.

Parker said his team must not let Tift County dictate the tempo of the game tonight.

“We really need to keep attacking,” Parker said. “(Tift County) slows everything down on purpose. But our game is to push it down the floor. Our guards are slashers, not straight-up shooters.

“I worry about when they run back and get into that 1-1-3. We’ve just got to play our game.”

The 42 points the Lady Packers scored in the 45-42 loss to Tift County in the tournament at Lowndes in November were the fewest they have scored in a game this year.

Tift jumped out to a 22-16 lead and the Lady Packers were unable to catch up.

Brownlee had 13 for the Lady Devils that night. Welker and Wells each had 10.

Tonight’s game will be the fourth in row at the Espy Gymnasium for the Lady Packers, who will be back home again on Saturday to try to duplicate their early-season 68-48 victory over Thomasville, a game in which they posted their highest point total of the season.

At 4 p.m. today, the Colquitt County junior varsity girls will put their 7-0 record on the line against Tift County.

The JV Lady Packers defeated Coffee 45-41 on Tuesday to remain undefeated. Laquita Smith led Colquitt County with 24 points against Coffee. Ashley Patillo and Latauria Peacock each had six, Alexa Isaacs had four and Selica Daniels, Kyandrea Simpson and Carly Moore each had two.

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