DAWSON -- Somewhere in the middle of the celebration, at the heart of all that joy, all that dancing and leaping, and storming-of-the-court, Alre'k Brown was silent.
In the midst of the chaos, Brown was simply alone with his thoughts.
The Herald No. 3 Terrell County's boys basketball team had just upset No. 2 Westover, 65-60, on Saturday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd, and every player on the Greenwave was going nuts.
But this wasn't just a basketball game. It was more -- so much more. This one belonged to Elmonica Orr.
Orr, Brown's aunt, died earlier in the week after losing a battle with breast cancer.
"She was like a sister to me,'' said Brown in a voice barely above a whisper. "It was hard, hard to play the game, hard not to think about her. I played so bad Friday night because I couldn't get my mind off of her, but I prayed before the game (Saturday). I prayed for my auntie, and I prayed that I could get through the game -- to take it off me.''
Brown had help in the rematch of a game Westover won earlier this year, 76-65.
He went to his teammates on Thursday asking for a tribute to his aunt. Brown wanted the team to wear pink socks in her memory, and every player dedicated the game to Orr.
"This was the best game of the season,'' Terrell County coach John Davis said. "It was so emotional, and meant so much, because of the way this team supported Alre'k. We're a family, and that's what families do. They support each other. When we huddled at center court after the game, it was very emotional, very tough.''
Brown was also an inspiration on the court.
He led Terrell County all night from a thundering dunk early to a final flourish in the last-gasping seconds, scoring eight points in the final 95 seconds of the game. It was Brown who had a four-point run to close the gap to 58-57, and -- after Markez Dotson's drive gave Terrell County a 59-58 lead -- it was Brown again, who slammed in a dunk off a rebound with 21 seconds left to lift Terrell County to a 61-58 cushion. And it was Brown who dropped in a pair of put-the-game-away free throws with 11 seconds left to give the Greenwave a 63-58 lead.
Brown finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, a couple of assists and two blocked shots. But everywhere he looked there were players in pink socks rising to the moment. Terrell County had four players in double figures. Dotson and Charles Brown scored 11 each, and Brian Browner scored 10. Terel Hall, one of the top point guards in Southwest Georgia, ran the floor, made four steals, scored six points and even snatched a couple of rebounds to go with half a dozen assists.
"We were texting Alre'k all day, telling him we had his back, that we would be there for him (Saturday night),'' Hall said. "We had to win this game.''
Dotson felt the same way.
"We all knew what the game meant. We dedicated the game to his auntie,'' he said. "When he came up with the idea for the pink socks the three captains (Brown, Hall and Dotson) knew what we had to do.''
The emotion even had an effect on Westover coach Dallis Smith.
"I didn't know why they were wearing the pink socks,'' said Smith when he was told of the dedication. "I (just) know they played hard -- they played real hard.''
Hard enough to storm back from an 11-point deficit. The two teams swapped leads 10 times in the first half before Westover (17-3), which was led by Chris Wheeler (14 points), Malcolm Sapp (14 points) and Anthony Ball (13 points), took over and built a 49-38 lead late in the third quarter. From that point on, Terrell County outscored the Patriots 27-11 over the final 11 minutes of the game
"I wanted to win this game so bad,'' Brown said. "So bad.''
WESTOVER GIRLS 66, TERRELL COUNTY 14:
Terrell County girls basketball coach Tammye Jenkins, an All-American who came home to coach, has had some of the best teams in this part of the state, powerhouses that won easily. But as Jenkins knows all too well, "This is just one of those years.''
That's what she said after losing to Westover for the second time this season.
"She has had some great teams. She always has great teams,'' Westover coach Lewis Smith said. "But there's nothing you can do. You play with what you have. You can't recruit in high school. She'll have great teams again. This is just a tough year for them.''
It was a long night for Terrell County (2-18), which didn't score until the second quarter. Westover's DyTiesha Dunson scored 17 first-half points and finished the night early with 19, and Ieshia Young finished with 16 to lead Westover, which emptied the bench. DeAndrea Mitchell (6 points) and Tayanna Hall (5 points) led Terrell County.
Westover has now won five in a row and is 16-3 headed into the stretch run -- a run that could produce a Region 1-AAA title.
But the Lady Patriots face Worth, Monroe and Albany all on the road next week, before the last two region games, including a finale with Peach County, the team they are tied with for first place in the region.
"We had a break tonight,'' Smith said. "But there's no break now with the next five games. We are going to find out what we are made of now. The next five are going to be serious."