Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CUTHBERT -- The call him "Pop" Weston, and Paul Weston doesn't mind at all.

The Greenwave assistant coach is full of age-old wisdom, and a bit of a sense of humor -- just what Terrell County needed Saturday night.

Because when everything was on the line -- in the midst of all the craziness and chaos -- Pop grabbed star Terel Hall and told him simply: "Make the free throw for your girl friend.''

Hall just smiled.

And then he sent all of Terrell County in jubilation, nailing the foul shot that beat Lanier County, 56-55, on Saturday night in the Region 1-A championship at a packed Randolph-Clay gym -- marking the Greenwave's fourth title in a row.

"I was so nervous,'' Hall said. "He made me laugh. It kind of relaxed me.''

There was nothing relaxing about this nail-biter -- a classic give-and-go between two of the best teams in the state that didn't end until Terrell County (21-5) had stormed back from a 12-point deficit and then stormed the court like madmen after the win.

"I was excited, so excited,'' said Terrell County coach John Davis, who ran onto the court, pumping his fist and shouting toward the heavens.

And the Greenwave kids danced and hugged, and screamed into the night.

"It felt like we had just won the state championship,'' said Alre'k Brown, who once again was the biggest force on the court. "Everybody kept saying how we didn't have a chance, how we didn't have any talent and how we wouldn't win the region.''

Nobody is talking now.

"We heard it all week about Lanier,'' Davis said. "They're No. 5 in the state and everything. It was so hyped up about Lanier.''

It's time for a new state poll, and time to shove Terrell County up the ladder. The Greenwave hasn't lost to a Class A team all year, but has been stuck in the bottom half of the Top 10 in the poll. The kids from Dawson have a chance top make all of that irrelevant, because they enter the state tournament next week as a No. 1 seed, after taking possession of their fourth Region 1-A title in a row.

"We promised coach we would get No. 4,'' said Hall, who ended up with nine points, including the free throw he made with 5.2 seconds left. It was Hall, a Super 6er and one of the best ball-handlers in Southwest Georgia, who ran the clock down and down and down -- from 1:17 until he drove for the basket with five seconds left.

Lanier had one final shot but it banked hard off the rim, and Brown snatched his 11th rebound of the night to seal it. Brown finished with 18 points, 11 boards and five blocked shots. He intimidated at least four more.

But none of it was enough early as Lanier (24-4_ was led by Emmanuel Ezoua (23 points) and Anthony Ethridge (13), who combined for 36 points of which 33 were in the paint. The Bulldogs built a 32-23 halftime lead and went up 36-24 early in the third, and after a 9-2 run they were up 53-44 with 3:28 left.

Then came the Greenwave, who forced eight turnovers in the final three minutes, and Lanier did not score again from the floor -- making just two free throws in the last 3:28 of the game. Brown's and-one play made it 53-48, and Markez Dotson, who finished with 11 points, hit his second 3 of the half to close to 54-51, and Terrell County caught Lanier at 55-55 when Brian Browner made his second steal in a 10-second stretch and sent a pass to Hall, who drove for the tie with 2:05 left. Then came another Lanier turnover and the final wait as Terrell County held the ball for the win.

"We had to come back,'' Hall said. "Coach put it on us at halftime.''

Davis said it was the players who spoke loudest.

"They talked among themselves,'' Davis said. "And when they came out of the locker room, they looked at me and shouted "Let's do this thing!''

That's Terrell County's mantra, the cry of a team that may just be hungry enough to make a run at a state title.

"I am just so excited that we won the fourth one in a row,'' Davis said. "I know this team is ready to play.''