Dec. 6—VALDOSTA — The Valdosta High boys basketball team (4-1) continued its impressive start to the season with wins over Westover and Tift County Friday and Saturday.
The 'Cats defeated rival Tift County (1-1) 58-54 on Saturday led by three players in double figures.
Senior guard James Siplen led the way with 17 points followed by senior forward DJ Berry with 16 and junior guard Keshawn Floyd with 10.
On Friday, the 'Cats went toe to toe with the Westover Patriots and came away with a 60-55 victory.
With the game tied at 53, the Patriots had a chance to take the lead at the line but sophomore Jeremiah Childs missed the front end of the one-and-one with 31.4 seconds left.
On the next Valdosta possession, Floyd corralled an offensive rebound and put it back in to put the 'Cats in front 55-53 with 30.1 seconds left.
Out of a Westover timeout, they came up empty and fouled Berry with 22.1 seconds left. Berry sank both foul shots to open up a four-point Valdosta lead, but Westover's Kavon Johnson answered with two free throws of his own to make it 57-55 with 15.7 seconds remaining.
Siplen split a pair of free throws to put Valdosta ahead 58-55 with 14.2 seconds to play, forcing another Westover timeout.
The 'Cats decided the outcome with defense as they scrambled to cut off the Patriots most of the possession before a 3-pointer from the right wing rimmed out and was recovered by Berry with 0.8 seconds on the clock.
Berry buried both free throws to preserve the win, giving him a game-high 21 points. Siplen scored 12 for the 'Cats. Johnson scored 16 to lead the Patriots. Jeremiah Waters added 14 and Childs had 11 in the loss.
Westover led 27-20 at the half.
The Patriots led by as many as 12 points in the first half as a 3-pointer by Waters made it 18-6 with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
The 'Cats opened the second half with energy as Jabarri Williams got the scoring started with a layup and Berry picked off a bad pass and sailed in for a dunk to cut the lead to 27-24.
Following a layup by Berry, a baby hook inside by Malachi Wheeler pushed the Westover lead to 35-28 with under 3 minutes to play in the third quarter.
A layup by Siplen spurred a 9-2 run that allowed the 'Cats to pull even at 37 at the end of the quarter.
TIFT GIRLS 50, LADY 'CATS 47
Despite a 42-29 lead through three quarters, the Valdosta Lady 'Cats (3-5) were outscored 21-5 in the fourth quarter to fall 50-47 to the Tift County Lady Blue Devils (3-2) Saturday night.
WESTOVER GIRLS 44, LADY 'CATS 41
A layup with 1:21 remaining proved to be the difference as the Westover Lady Patriots edged the Lady 'Cats 44-41 Friday night.
Valdosta once again struggled without Alabama commit Essence Cody in the lineup. The Lady 'Cats shot just 28% from the floor and for the second straight game, senior guard Denver Arnold accounted for all of the team's 3-pointers as the team finished 4 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Arnold scored 11 of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter. Overall, Arnold made 8 of 22 field goals and 4 of 11 from 3-point range along with six steals in the loss. Aniyah Bradfield nearly secured a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds. Bradfield also had two blocks and two steals in the game.
Lundyn Walker led the Lady Patriots with 14 points. Rayven Thurston and Te'Jah Lawson each scored 11 in the win.
Valdosta travels to Albany Saturday, Dec. 10 to face Westover in the rubber match. Tipoff for the girls game is scheduled for 6 p.m., followed by the boys game at 7:30 p.m.
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.