Pelham’s Roderick Williams, right, passes over Herald Super 6er Dekoven Ware and the Terrell County defense Wednesday night during the quarterfinals of the GHSA Region 1-A Tournament in Camilla. Williams led the Hornets with 14 points in the win, which knocked the Greenwave out of the tournament and ended their streak of five straight appearances in state. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CAMILLA — It’s over. A ride like no other team in Southwest Georgia has had in years finally ended Wednesday night in the Mitchell County gym in front of the largest crowd of the evening.
It ended with a thud, not thunder, and left everyone from Terrell County stunned and a bit numb. And while Pelham’s Hornets were celebrating their 49-43 win against the team, the program and the dynasty, Terrell County was wondering what to do for the next three weeks.
For the first time in five years, the Greenwave will not enter the Class A State Tournament. That’s headline stuff in Dawson and in Region 1-A, where the Greenwave had won five consecutive region titles, made it to the state title game last year and the Final Four two years ago. The Greenwave lost four starters from that team, but still looked good enough to make another run at a sixth straight region title.
“It was a great ride, a real great ride,’’ Terrell County coach John Davis said after his team was eliminated in the Region 1-A tournament Wednesday. “We won for five consecutive years. Not many coaches can say that. I’m very proud of the program and the kids.’’
Pelham knew all about the five-year hold Terrell County had on the region title, but coach Laron Smith didn’t mention it to his players.
“We didn’t talk about it,’’ he said. “I had to relax them. We played Terrell real close earlier in the year, and Dekoven Ware beat us with a shot at the buzzer. We knew all we had to do is play like we are capable of playing and we would have a chance. That’s all we wanted was a chance.’’
Smith did talk about two things before the showdown.
“We spent a lot of time shooting free throws the last two days and shot free throws for 30 minutes (on Tuesday) to get ready for the game,’’ he said.
It paid off.
The Hornets made 9-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter and 15-of-21 in the second half to put the game away. Roderick Williams made 8-of-9 in the fourth quarter and nailed 4-of-4 in the final 26 seconds to finish with a team-high 14 points. Ware had just made a steal and a drive to close the score to 42-41 with 34 seconds left, and then Williams answered with a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to lift Pelham to a 44-41 lead.
After a Greenwave turnover, Jaquan Green hit a free throw to make it a 45-41 lead with 13 seconds left. Deshone Watson then hit two free throws for Terrell with 5.5 seconds left to close to 45-43, but Williams put the game away with two free throws with 5.3 left to make it a 47-43 game.
Smith said the other key he talked about was Ware, a Herald Super 6er who averages a double-double for the season and has destroyed teams inside since he was a junior.
“It’s hard to stop him,’’ Smith said. “You just have to try to contain him.’’
The Hornets held Ware to just eight points and 10 rebounds. Rakeem Spencer led Terrell with 14 points and Jevon MacIntosh scored 11. Steve Mango, who was on Ware most of the night, scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds for Pelham, and Shaderius Williams also scored 10 for the Hornets, who will meet Herald No. 5 Calhoun County — the No. 1 seed from the North subregion — in the 1-A semifinals at 4 p.m. on Friday at Pelham.
“They were playing for the right to play in their own gym and that helped motivate them,’’ Davis said of Pelham. “They played a good game, but we just didn’t play. We just never could get it going. I could see in the second quarter we just didn’t have any rhythm, but I thought we would get into a rhythm in the second half. We never did.’’
Pelham (13-13) trailed 7-0 and 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, but took a 19-17 lead into halftime, and when the Greenwave missed 11 shots in a row in the third, the Hornets built an 11-point lead at 31-21. Terrell came back and trailed, 35-32, after three, but never could get the lead in the fourth.
“Our defense won this game,’’ Roderick Williams said. “When they (made their comeback) we just had to calm down and play good defense. It feels great to beat them. We had to believe.’’
And he said he wasn’t nervous when he nailed down the free throws at the end.
“I was just thinking, ‘I’ve got to do it,’ ” he said. “No excuses.’’