GHSA CLASS A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP COLUMN: Dream ride to Macon for Greenwave

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

I always dig up the movie Hoosiers and watch it this time of year. Everyone who knows me knows it's my favorite sports movie. I've seen it 30-something times, and I still get goosebumps when Ollie hits that free throw.

Might not watch it this year.

No need to.

I've been living it for the past two weeks, well close enough to it. Close enough to Terrell County to taste a little of it -- and nothing tastes sweeter.

It's always like that when the kids who aren't supposed to win just keep winning, just keep tugging at your heart, and just keep making you dizzy with the magic that comes with a state title run.

I may be the biggest cynic in the world, but when it comes to high school kids, I'm a soft touch. I still believe in that corny Hoosiers storyline and will always want to believe that little guys somewhere are toppling bullies as we speak.

Nobody slays giants like the kids from Dawson, and there's not a whole lot out there that's more fun than watching them do it. Don't tell The Albany Herald, but I would cover these games for free.

I was even a cynic about this team. Last summer, I ran into Terrell County coach John Davis, and joked with him, asking him point blank: "How are you going to get a rebound this year? You lost your big man Alre'k Brown, who was the Bill Russell of Southwest Georgia. You bring back four guards, but how are you going to get a rebound?''

Davis, a man of faith and conviction who knows the Bible better than he knows basketball (and Lord knows he knows basketball), smiled and said. "I've got a plan.''

"So what's your plan,'' I said, laughing.

"We're not going to miss,'' he said.

Well, here they are -- the Dreamwave -- those Greenwave players who dreamed of making all this happen and then made the dream come true. They're playing for the Class A state title at 12:45 p.m. today against Wilkinson County, the biggest giant of them all.

You know how we got to this point: Wilkinson smashed everyone last year and was ranked No. 1 in the state and unbeaten on the night Terrell County crashed the party with a 51-50 win in the Elite 8 that sent echoes across the state. Wilkinson County hasn't lost since, and arrives today with a 56-1 record during the past two years -- all this after beating four playoff teams by a total of 93 points.

The Warriors are big and fast and -- after what happened last year -- are ready to take Terrell County's head off. Were they thinking about Terrell County? Not much. Wilkinson County's coach Aaron Geter came to Albany on a night when his team was playing to watch Terrell County beat Westover in the Civic Center this season.

Oh, they want the Greenwave -- want to beat them so bad it's in their bones, and you can't blame them.

But listen to Davis.

"I've had good teams, and I've had great teams,'' he said Thursday. "But I've never had a team this hungry.''

They play like they're starving.

The big man is Dekoven Ware, who stands at 6-feet. Whitefield Academy, the team TC beat in the state semifinals, 66-63, on Wednesday, started two guards who were each 6-3 and a big, physical 6-4 brute at center. Ware had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Ware, a junior, has grown up right before their eyes in Dawson, and they love him. They love all these kids, a community wrapping its arms around a basketball team and then sailing 10 feet off the ground with it as the ride just gets better and better.

But not easier.

"Wilkinson County is a lot bigger than us, but so is everybody else we play,'' said Davis with the same ease he would have ordering a cup of coffee.

The Dreamwave are the shortest team in the entire playoffs, but nobody in this group cares about that because they're too busy caring about each other. They pass the ball like poetry and the chemistry between them flows like the Mississippi.

"Size doesn't matter,'' said 5-10 Terel Hall, who could probably leap over the Sears Tower if Davis asked him. He's that kind of kid. Is there a bigger player in Southwest Georgia? No, no, no. Not even close. If we're picking teams, and I can take any kid down here, I'm taking Hall with my first pick.

He is the heart and soul of this team, and I don't care how many times they knock him down, or grab his jersey or whack him from behind -- this kid never gives in. I can't tell you how Hall will beat Wilkinson today, because I've seen him beat teams in every imaginable way -- and sometimes with plays I could have never imagined.

The whole group has a resilience that's impossible to define. I have seen teams beat them up and pound them inside -- physically beat them to a pulp -- and they just keep coming. There was a playoff game last week, and the opponent beat Terrell County up so badly under the basket that Davis told me later that, "We were getting beat up so bad under there that I was afraid it would get to them mentally.''

No chance. Not with this group. Dreamwavers just don't waver.

Davis calls it mental toughness. But it's beyond that.

It's what you want to give to your children, a gift that will make them ready for anything the world throws against them.

Terrell County has it, and no one can take it.

"This team has a lot of heart,'' Ware said.

Yeah, lots and lots of hear ...Nope, don't think I'll need to watch Hoosiers this year.

I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about today's game.