COLUMBUS, Ga. -- If you're a Southeastern Conference women's basketball fan, the next four years should be pretty exciting.
The estimated 1,500 fans at the Columbus Civic Center on Tuesday night caught a small glimpse of the future during the annual Georgia Athletic Coaches Association's North-South all-star game.
The South all-stars rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to post a 78-68 victory, the second straight season the South has prevailed.
Fans in attendance witnessed Tennessee signees Tasha Butts (Baldwin) and Latoya Davis (Mary Persons), as well as Mississippi State signees Lyndi Sippel (Dade County) and Dana Benemon (Statesboro).
Added into the mix was the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Player of the Year, Christi Thomas of Buford, who will play at Georgia next season. Butts, Davis, Sippel and Thomas finished in double figures.
The game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the North dominated, building leads as high as 15 points and maintaining a double-figure advantage for most of the first half.
"The first half, we weren't having fun and playing our game," said Butts, who was named the girls Class AAAA player of the year by the Georgia Sports Writers Association. "We were letting them control the tempo of the game. The second half, we starting dictating the tempo and letting them play our game."
The North used an 11-0 run early in the first half to take control. Thomas banked a shot off the glass to increase the lead to 20-12 with 9:37 left, then the 6-foot-5 standout nailed a three-pointer from the top the key to make it 26-14 with 8:18 to play in the half.
The North led 47-35 heading into the second half before the South slowly chipped away. It outscored the North 21-11 over the first 8:03 of the second to trim the deficit to 58-56 on a Davis layup.
Glynn Academy's Tai Wilson stole the inbound pass and converted a layup to tie it at 58 with 11:32 left, then the South held the North scoreless over the next 3:32 and took the lead for good.
"They picked up their defensive intensity and we panicked a little bit," Thomas said of the second half. "We got a little rushed, we didn't take our time in our press breaker and they came out on top. They had a good team."
Valdosta's Kim Griffin was named the game's Most Valuable Player after scoring 18 points. In addition, her defense helped keep the South in the game early.
Josey's Kenya Thompkins, the lone Augusta representative in the contest, went scoreless but pulled down five rebounds.
In the boys' game, the North prevailed 103-100 over the South.GRIDIRON CLASSIC:
The GACA's annual North-South all-star football game will be played at 7 tonight at Memorial Stadium in Columbus. Representing the Augusta area on the South team will be Washington County's Tyler Biggins. Three players from the Augusta-area will play on the North team -- Washington-Wilkes' Adam Thornton and Jerry Brown and Lincoln County's Marcus Ramsey. Thornton and Ramsey were members of The Augusta Chronicle's preseason Dream 16.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.
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