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They did it!: Terrell County 51, No. 1 Wilkinson 50

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

COLUMBUS -- Markez Dotson couldn't stop shouting, didn't want to, didn't need to and he sure didn't have to.

Dotson's just like the rest of the Terrell County Greenwave -- unstoppable.

"Big slingshot! Big slingshot! Big slingshot,'' screamed Dotson, whose voice could be heard above the din that filled Terrell County's wild party of a locker room Friday, just the way this team has filled all its dreams this season.

Keep dreaming, Greenwave. Nobody does it better than the kids from Dawson.

The same kids who were supposed to lose in the region title game, the ones who were supposed to fall to fifth-ranked Greenville earlier in the week, and the ones who wouldn't have a chance against unbeaten and top-ranked Wilkinson.

Yeah, those guys.

The Dreamwave.

Well, that sound you heard falling and crashing Friday night at Columbus State was the sound of Wilkinson -- that's 29-0 Wilkinson, which had been ranked No. 1 in the state all season -- falling to Terrell County, 51-50, in the Elite Eight round of the GHSA Class A state tournament.

The Greenwave didn't need a miracle finish to win this one. Terrell County led most of the game (albeit close leads) and was up by four when Wilkinson hit a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to make the final appear closer than it was.

This was no fluke, no upset, no lighting in a bottle. This was Terrell County outplaying Wilkinson and dropping in free throws to seal it.

There had been so much talk about how Wilkinson was unbeatable that Terrell County coach John Davis said Thursday: "It's David and Goliath, and we're going to need a pretty good slingshot.''

Alre'k Brown, the Greenwave's inspirational center who blocked eight shots Friday, took the metaphor a step further saying Thursday: "We've got a big slingshot.''

And then there was Dotson, shouting and dancing in the locker room.

"That was a big slingshot,'' Davis said. "But behind that slingshot was a lot of faith and belief. The kids were fired up the whole night. They believed they could win this game.''

Terrell County (24-5) never showed any sign of fear, and took it to Wilkinson from the opening tip, and then took everything away from the Warriors, who love to run teams off the court. They lived all year on their unrelenting pressure, which forced turnovers that led to blowout after blowout.

But Terel Hall, the courageous point guard from Terrell County, simply took all the pressure out of Wilkinson's press. By the second half, the Warriors had shelved the pressing defense that had given them 29 wins, and sat back in a zone until the final desperation seconds when they had to gamble and foul.

"That's their bread and butter,'' Davis said. "And they didn't press us for one minute in the second half. I told our kids a pressing team doesn't like to be pressed.''

Terrell County actually forced Wilkinson into 18 turnovers, while turning the ball over just 12 times.

"We don't start four guards for no reason,'' said Hall, who had another remarkable night, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds. "We have heart. It doesn't matter what people say. We want to be the underdog in every game we play. We're the underdog, and we're going to the Final Four.''

Hall and the Greenwave had made it to the Elite Eight the last two years, but took the big step Friday to Macon and the Final Four.

"Whew! It feels great to be here,'' Hall said. "After the last two years, it's just great to be in the Final Four. And it feels good to beat the No. 1 team, real, real good.''

Nobody felt better than Brian Browner, who flew off the bus and busted back-to-back 3s before the Warriors knew what hit them. Dotson, who finished with 14 points, followed with a 3, and it was 9-2 with 6:45 left in the first.

"I felt like I had been letting my teammates down because they kept telling me to shoot more,'' said Browner, who hit another 3 before halftime and finished with 13 points. "I had to shoot it. I just had to let them go (at the beginning of the game). When I hit those first two shots, I felt like I was on Cloud 15.''

Wilkinson made its biggest run of the night -- a 10-1 gallop to end the first quarter with a 17-15 lead and when Fitzgerald White hit a 3 to open the second, the Warriors had their biggest lead of the night --- 20-15. But then Terrell County slammed the door. Wilkinson, which had scored more than 80 points 18 times this season and was averaging 88 points in the playoffs, didn't score another basket in the first half, and didn't score at all until White hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left in the half.

Charles Brown came right back with a 3 for Terrell County to give the Greenwave a 29-22 lead. Terrell County kept a nine-point lead through most of the third quarter, before Wilkinson closed to 37-35 with a 7-0 run. Fitzgerald, who finished with 11, gave Wilkinson its final lead (41-39) of the season with a short jumper with 5:42 left, but Hall scored four in a row to make it 43-41 and Terrell County hung on to one-point leads until Hall hit a pair of free throws to make it 50-47 with 42 seconds left. Dotson hit another free throw before Wilkinson's final 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"(Terrell County was) prepared to play,'' said Wilkinson coach Aaron Geter, whose nephew, Trey, led the Warriors with 15 points. "It was nip and tuck game and you've got to make plays -- and they made the plays.''

Then Geter was told about Terrell County's slingshot metaphor.

"They did a great job, a great job,'' he said.

Next up for the Greenwave will be the winner of tonight's other Elite 8 matchup between Whitfield and Commerce. The winner meets Terrell County in the Final Four on Wednesday in Macon at 5:30 p.m.