Westover star and Herald Super 6er Dequan Green, left, works against teammate Kyle Baker during a preseason practice. The Patriots, who are off to a 2-2 start and are ranked No. 4 in The Herald's Fab 5 poll, face a big test tonight at home against Thomasville, which opened its season last week at home with a win against Westover.
ALBANY -- Dallis Smith tells his kids every day that "it's not where you start but where you end up,'' and Smith should know.
He's used to Westover, which has been in the GHSA Class AAA Final Four two of the last three seasons, including the title game in 2009, going places in the playoffs.
"I tell them that all the time,'' said Smith, whose Patriots are 2-2 and looking for a couple of things right now: chemistry and winning.
Smith figures if the first one comes, the second will follow. He would like to see both show up tonight when Westover plays Thomasville at the Boston Garden, named for legendary Westover coach Willie Boston.
Thomasville (1-0), ranked No. 4 in the coaches Class AA state poll, opened last week with a massive 71-47 win at home against Westover.
"They beat us in the first game we played against them last year and then we beat them in the second game at the Albany Civic Center,'' Smith said.
Smith then added: "Hopefully, we can make some adjustments and do it again. It will be interesting to see how we respond.''
What Smith wants to see is his kids come together.
Westover has a new point guard in T.J. Cromer, who came to Albany from Tift County, and players such as Herald Super 6er Dequan Green and Brandon Hudson are stepping into leadership roles as seniors.
"They're a tough team,'' Smith said of Thomasville. "But it's not the other team, it's what we're doing. We're turning the ball over too much and we're not playing the kind of game we're capable of playing.
"We're still getting to know each other. Right now we're not on the same page. It just takes playing minutes and playing together. We have some people who have not been in the mix. It takes time.''
It would be a huge step for Westover to win tonight, and it's a big weekend of basketball in Southwest Georgia.
Westover's Lady Patriots are 6-0 and the top-ranked team in The Herald Fab 5 Poll. They also face Thomasville, one of the toughest teams on their non-region schedule. Westover beat Thomasville, 57-43, last week, but it wasn't easy.
"The thing that stands out in my mind is they had us down by 18 points in that game,'' Westover coach Lewis Smith said. "The first two periods they were just unreal, and had us down by 18. We cut it to 10 points at halftime, and then played in the second half the way they played in the first half.''
When Smith was asked why his team is off to a 6-0 start, he didn't blink.
"DyTiesha Dunson,'' he said with a knee jerk response. "She is our leader, and does everything for us. We have a lot of young players, but our two senior leaders, DyTiesha and Ieshia Young, they've got us off to a 6-0 start.''
Both Dunson and Young are two-time Super 6ers, and both remember losing in the Elite 8 last year, falling 37-35, to Crisp County -- a team they had beaten three times. They also remember they were 12-0 last year when Thomasville handed them their first loss.
"Thomasville is a tough team, but we play a tough schedule to get ready for our region,'' Lewis Smith said.
There won't be a better regular-season game in all of the GISA than Saturday's showdown between Deerfield-Windsor and defending GISA Class AAA state champ Mount Vernon.
Mount Vernon knocked out Deerfield last season in the state quarterfinals, ending a four-year run to the Final Four by the Knights, who won the state title two years ago.
As always, DWS got off to a late start because of the football team's success in the state playoffs and is 1-0 after opening up with a 96-32 win at Brookwood. The Knights play at Stratford tonight before opening at home against Mount Vernon on Saturday afternoon. The girls play at 3 p.m. Saturday and the boys' showdown starts at 4:30 p.m.
One of the biggest games in the area will be played Saturday night at Terrell County, where the Greenwave play their home opener against rival Randolph-Clay in a game that will draw a standing-room-only crowd.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Randolph-Clay, but the Red Devils are renovating their gym and naming it after the late legendary coach Joe Williams. They plan on opening the new gym in January and dedicating it to Williams.
But make no mistake: The Randolph-Clay faithful will make the trip to Dawson for this one Saturday.
Terrell County has won the last five Region 1-A titles, and has had back-to-back trips to the Final Four, including last year's appearance in the state title game. The Greenwave lost to Wilkinson County in the championship game, but lost only two games to Class A teams all year -- Wilkinson and Randolph-Clay, which split with Terrell County in the regular season, and fell to the Greenwave, 56-47, in the Region 1-A title game.
"It's always a big game when we play them,'' said Terrell County coach John Davis, who lost four starters off last year's squad, including 2010-11 Albany Herald Willie Boston Player of the Year Terel Hall. "We opened with them last year, so we are opening with them again this season."
Terrell County, which opens its season on the road tonight at Miller County, does bring back Super 6er Dekoven Ware, a 6-foot-1 forward who was a force for the Greenwave last season. He will face Randolph-Clay's Super 6er Shaquille Nunnally, a 6-6 post player who can dominate.
"It's a big game for both teams,'' said Davis, who was an assistant under Williams at Randolph-Clay when the Red Devils were a state power every year. He came to Terrell County 11 years ago and knows better than anyone what this game means.
"It's turned into a great rivalry,'' he said.
Want To Go?/Looking Ahead
Here's a rundown of three of the best area matchups between today and Saturday during Southwest Georgia's first big weekend of prep basketball.
WHO/WHEN: Thomasville at Westover -- girls game at 6 p.m.; boys game at 7:30 p.m.
WHO/WHEN: Mount Vernon at Deerfield -- girls game at 3 p.m.; boys game at 4:30 p.m.
WHO/WHEN: Randolph-Clay at Terrell County -- girls game at 6 p.m.; boys game at 7:30 p.m.