Terrell's tall order

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DAWSON -- John Davis has heard it all.

He's heard about the 29-0 record.

He's heard about the No. 1 ranking, about the way Wilkinson County blows teams away.

He's heard about the way the Warriors come at teams in waves, five players at a time, shifts that wear opponents down and leave them panting in the wake of what is arguably the deepest boys basketball team in Georgia.

And he's heard and watched tape of how Wilkinson runs, runs, and runs some more; how this team is seemingly unbeatable because no Class A team can stay with them.

"I've talked to a lot of coaches in their region, coaches who have played Wilkinson more than once,'' said Davis, whose Terrell County Greenwave meets state No. 1 Wilkinson in the Elite Eight of the GHSA Class A state playoffs at 8:30 tonight at Columbus State.

"I know,'' he added. "It's David and Goliath. I hope we have a pretty good slingshot.''

Then he stopped and started again.

"And we need to hit them in the right place.''

No one has found a way to beat the Warriors, who are not only 29-0, but have had only one close game all season (an overtime victory against Aquinas in the region final). They have scored 90 points or more seven times, and have topped 80 points in 18 of their 29 games. In their two playoff games, the Warriors have outscored their opponents 173-76. They played Class AAAAA Northside,

Warner Robins this year, and scored 113 points on a night when they made a dozen 3-pointers, and six players scored in double figures. Wilkinson loves to run teams ragged.

"That's all we do is run, from practice until we hit the floor for a game,'' Wilkinson's 6-foot-6 forward Fitzgerald White told The Macon Telegraph earlier this season.

It's not unusual to see three, four or even five players reach double figures, because Dr. Aaron Geter, who doubles as the team's coach and the county's superintendent, substitutes five at a time.

"They have 14 players who can play, and they use all of them,'' Davis said. "They press a lot and like to trap the ball. They score a lot of points in transition. We know we're going to have to take care of the ball.''

Enter Herald Super 6er Terel Hall, who is arguably the best ball-handling point guard in Southwest Georgia. Nobody hands out assists like Hall, who helped lift Terrell County to a 76-75 buzzer-beating comeback Tuesday against Greenville when he took the ball with six seconds left and sent a pass to Markez Dotson, who hit a drive at the buzzer.

"All the pressure is on them to stay undefeated,'' Hall said. "They're the ones who are 29-0 and ranked No. 1. We've been the underdogs all year, so we don't worry about it any more. They're a tough team, but we're a tough team, too. And we've got great heart.''

Terrell County has seen some ranked teams. The Greenwave beat Lanier, which was ranked fifth in the Class A poll at the time, and then Tuesday beat newly

anointed fifth-ranked Greenville, which led by four points with 20 seconds left. They also beat Westover, which is ranked fifth in the Class AAA poll and still alive, and took Bainbridge (the fifth-ranked team in the AAAA poll, and which plays tonight) to overtime.

"We're not afraid,'' Davis said. "We just have to play our game. We know we're going to face great teams in the Elite Eight. That's why they call it the Elite Eight.''

Terrell County won't be intimidated.

After the way the Greenwave came back from 12 to beat Lanier to win a fourth region title, and after Tuesday's frantic finish which saw TC gain the lead, lose it and then win the game in the final 20 seconds, these kids believe they can play with anybody.

"We feel like we can play with the Lakers,'' senior center Alre'k Brown said. "That's just how much heart we have. We have a pretty big slingshot.''

Terrell County (23-5) hasn't lost to a Class A team all season, and has won 16 of its last 18 games with both losses coming to AAA Monroe, which was ranked No. 1 in the state at the time. No one thought Davis would have much of a team after seven seniors graduated from last year's group, which also made it to the Elite Eight.

"Everybody has been saying all year how we weren't going to win as many games, how we weren't going to win the region. We're always the underdogs'' Dotson said. "We've been hearing all week about Wilkinson and how good they are. We know that's a tough team, but we're a tough team, too. They've been hearing about us, too. They've been hearing how we don't quit, how we never give up.''

They don't.

"We're playing pretty good right now,'' Davis said. "I've talked to a lot of coaches, and they feel that (Wilkinson) can be beat. We have to overcome the things they do well. We've got to protect the ball, and not have turnovers. We know that's a great team, and we know we have to be ready to play.''