Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DAWSON -- Markez Dotson said his heart stopped. DeKoven Ware said his heart wouldn't stop beating. Alre'k Brown said he was ready to cry -- and John Davis did cry.

And that doesn't even begin to tell the story of how Terrell County's boys basketball beat Greenville Tuesday night -- 76-75 -- in a comeback they will talking about for years in Dawson.

"Yes, I cried,'' said a wet-eyed Davis, who in his nine years coaching Terrell County has never felt like this before.

Davis then added: "I've shed some tears over the years, but I've never had a season as gratifying as this one. These are tears of joy. This is the most gratifying because we lost seven seniors and these kids had not been in the fire. They hadn't been tested. But sometimes you have to learn to find your way out of the wilderness.''

The wilderness would be a stroll in the mall compared to what the Greenwave pulled off Tuesday. No one gave these kids a chance against fifth-ranked Greenville and Kentavious Pope -- who changed his last name midseason from Caldwell to Pope, but is still regarded as the best Class A player in Georgia.

And if that wasn't enough, Greenville led by four points with 20 seconds left, and then appeared to win the game with a tip-in with just six ticks on the clock.

But Terrell County is alive in the Class A playoffs today, and on the way to the Elite 8 to face No. 1 Wilkinson County on Friday at Columbus State -- tears and all.

It will forever be known as simply "The Pass,'' and no NFL quarterback could have thrown a better one. It came out of the hands of Herald Super 6er Terel Hall with a little lightning and a touch of magic and carried the hopes of a season. It covered the length of the court in a blink of an eye, and found its way to Dotson, who wheeled and drove and banked in the 76-75 final at the buzzer.

"I thought it was going to bounce out,'' Dotson said. "My heart stopped.''

But Terrell County never did.

Greenville's Will Bailey had tipped in Pope's miss with 6.2 seconds left for a 75-74 lead and Greenville's fans were going nuts when Brian Browner took the ball out and zipped a pass to Hall, who headed up court then saw Dotson. It was a play they had run 1,000 times -- the oldest play in the game -- a 2-on-1 break.

Just a couple of old friends throwing the ball to each other.

"When I saw (Bailey) tip it in I almost cried,'' said Brown, who fouled out with two minutes left. "Then I saw Terel get the ball and he just went. When Markez made that shot, I jumped 50 feet in the air.''

Before Brown landed, most of the standing-room-only crowd of more than 2,000 in Dawson filed onto the court. It was pandemonium -- like Mardi Gras on New Year's Eve. The Greenwave kids were jumping in the midst of the chaos, and many Greenville kids were on their knees on the floor.

Shocked. Stunned. Crushed.

"That was a tough loss,'' said Greenville coach Richard Carter, who also had tears in his eyes, at times finding himself at a loss for words. "That was a heck of a pass -- a heck of a pass.''

And a heck of a comeback.

It started with 19 seconds left when Pope, who finished with 25 points, fouled Browner, who was taking a long 3. Browner made all three free throws to close to 72-71.

Terrell County quickly fouled Greenville's Jeremy Harris, who made only one of two free throws to leave the door open at 73-71. That's when Ware had the moment of his career. He was in the game because Davis wanted every good 3-point shooter he had on the court, and Ware was camped out in the left corner.

"That's the only place he ever makes them,'' Hall joked.

Ware made it, and when the ball hit the bottom of the net the Greenwave had a 74-73 lead with 11 seconds left and Ware had instant fame and a new nickname.

"From now on he is Big Shot Ware,'' Hall said.

Ware grabbed his heart later, saying it was still racing and wouldn't stop.

"That's my shot. That's my side of the court. I trusted my point guard (Hall) and when he gave me the ball I just shot it,'' Ware said. "When it went in my head exploded.''

Then came the tip, the pass and Dotson's game-winner -- and the tears.

"This team doesn't give up,'' Davis said. "It's like I said when we came back (from 12) to beat Lanier (in the region title game). It shows their character. They do have character.''

Brown finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, and Dotson had 13 points, including the game winner.

Hall, meanwhile, had the game of his life. The 5-foot-10 point guard had eight rebounds, four steals and carried Terrell County early, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the first half, which ended 30-30. He had seven assists -- including the one that will last a lifetime.

"We never quit,'' Hall said. "I looked up at the clock and saw 6 seconds, and I knew I just had to go. I saw (Dotson) and I knew we had the 2-on-1. We do that every day in practice, all the time. I just had to get it to him. I threw the ball and thought: 'This is the big one.' "

They don't get much bigger.