Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DAWSON -- Anyone who wants to know the way to Columbus can get directions from Terrell County's Greenwave, who are making their fourth consecutive trip to the GHSA Class A Elite 8.

They meet Turner County at 8:30 tonight at Columbus State with a berth to the Final Four on the line.

"We feel like Columbus is on our schedule. We feel like we've got to make it there,'' said Herald Super 6er point guard Terel Hall, who started as a freshman four years ago when the streak began. "I remember that game. We lost to Portal (High School) by one point on a shot at the buzzer. It was a heartbreaker.''

He doesn't need any reminders about the loss as a sophomore, either.

"We lost to Turner County by five points,'' Hall said of the 2009 heartbreaker. "They were the No. 1 team in the state. I guess that gives us a little added motivation for this game.''

The Greenwave don't need any more motivation than they already have.

Four starters came back from last year's Final Four team that shocked the state when Terrell County knocked off No. 1 and unbeaten Wilkinson County at Columbus State. Wilkinson County hasn't lost since and is unbeaten and ranked No. 1 again, but sits on the other side of the bracket. The only way a rematch could happen is in the state final.

Right now, Turner is the team in Terrell County's path.

"We had to bring the slingshot last year (to beat Goliath) when we beat Wilkinson," Terrell County coach John Davis said Thursday. "And we will try to bring it when we play Turner. It's another giant for us to play. We look at Turner like we looked at Wilkinson. It's another giant in front of us.''

If the Greenwave can get past Turner (22-9) tonight, their likely opponent would be Whitefield Academy, a very physical team that beat Terrell County in the semifinals at Macon in a controversial overtime game in which every Terrell County starter fouled out.

"We know that we might play Whitefield again,'' junior Dekoven Ware said. "We are focused on beating Turner County, but we know we might have a chance to play Whitefield. It's big motivation.''

Enough said.

Ware was in eighth grade when the streak to Columbus began.

"I was a trainer on the team,'' he said. "When I became a freshman, the coach told me it was my time to step up and help us win a championship.''

He has stepped up mightily this season. If the Greenwave (26-3) win a title, Ware will be at the heart of it. He's only 6-feet tall, but he has battled bigger post players all year and is averaging a double-double for the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds a game. He scored 17 and pulled down 10 boards against Lanier's big frontline on Wednesday in Terrell County's 74-63 Sweet 16 win.

Turner's bigger front won't intimidate Ware.

"It's going to be a war,'' Ware said. "We've played against big boys all year. We should be ready.''

That's the mentality at Terrell County.

"It's nothing we haven't seen,'' Davis said. "That's why we play the schedule we play against the big AAA schools with big men like Monroe and Westover. We've seen big men all year, and Turner has a big man (Demarcus Daniels) who stands at 6-4, 6-5, and they've got a real good point guard (Zuriel Muhammad). They're a very good team, very athletic and they run the floor.

"They're bigger than we are, but everybody we play from now on will be larger than us. But we will be ready to play.''

Davis feels that way not only because of the way his team has been playing all year, but because of what he saw in practice Thursday.

"I saw that look in their eye,'' Davis said. "They're focused.''

And hungry.

They want to get back to the Final Four. Terrell County has lost only three times all year, and two of those were to then-Herald No. 1 Monroe. The idea from Day 1 was to get back to Macon, and the Greenwave is one step away.

"They want to get back and redeem themselves and to have a chance to win it all,'' Davis said. "This team has come together and bought into our coaching philosophy, and has had great teamwork. Teamwork makes the dream work.''

Hall has led the way with a 16-point average, but he is also averaging about eight assists and five steals a game, while running the offense like no other point guard in Southwest Georgia. Charles Brown, a senior, has also stepped up, and is averaging 12 points a game. He led the Greenwave with 19 points Wednesday and can be explosive at times.

Davis has had to tweak his lineup because senior Brian Browner, who started last season, went down with a knee injury before the region tournament.

Davis has used sophomore Tray Buchannan, a ball-handling guard, to take Browner's place. Guard Markez Dotson also started last year, so at least three players are back with a lot of playoff experience, and Ware was the first man off the bench a year ago. Elliot Harvey has come off the bench this season to help inside, but the Greenwave win because they run and force turnovers -- then run some more.

And if they get to Macon, they plan to run all the way.

That run begins tonight in Columbus.