Albany Herald High School beat writer Mike Phillips
I miss Terrell County already.
There was something about John Davis’ teams in the playoffs, something magical, something inspiring — something that stayed with you long after the last game had ended.
That was the Greenwave, and covering those kids in the state playoffs was about as much fun as anyone in this business can hope to have. I would always joke with Davis — a man of the Bible who would use scriptures in his pep talks.
Any time his kids were huge underdogs — and they seemed to always be underdogs in the state playoffs — I would ask Davis, “So did you go to the Old Testament for this game?’’
And his kids pulled off wild, wonderful upsets in the playoffs. The Greenwave became the Dreamwave, advancing to the state Final Four two years ago and then to the Class A state title game last year.
Now there’s no Terrell County in the state playoffs, which begin today.
So I’m wondering, who steps in and takes the magical ride? Who is this year’s Dream Team? Who will inspire us and capture our hearts? Who will make this year’s state tournament the time of their life?
Maybe it’s Mitchell County? It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Eagles just keep soaring after last week’s incredible Region 1-A title win against Calhoun County — a game that left me speechless.
I told that to Mitchell assistant coach Derex Woumnm, and he laughed and said, “That’s good that you’re speechless.’’
I’ll have plenty to say if his kids make a run to Macon, but I won’t be surprised. You gotta love all that energy and unselfishness that comes out of this group of kids from Camilla who have been playing together forever and really don’t care who scores the points.
That’s what every coach dreams of. Go ahead and pinch yourself, Mitchell County. This is no dream. These kids are for real and are ready to capture some hearts on a ride no one will soon forget.
DANGEROUS INDIANS: How about Albany High?
I have seen every big game the Indians have played this season, and I’m convinced they can win it all — and for all the right reasons, starting with Tim Pierce, who has been the best player in Southwest Georgia, and rolling all the way to Archie Chatmon’s Roly-Polys, Roscoe Byrd and Jontavious Morris, two bigger-than-life football players who lead in a million ways and who are without a doubt the face of Albany High.
You can’t watch Archie’s kids and not fall in love with them. Is there a shot Larry Sanford can’t make? Is there a rebound Emmanul Byrd can’t grab? And is there a ceiling for just how good Tyrone Culbreth can be?
Then there’s Ken-Sanity, Chatmon’s own take on the ultimate role player, Kenny Anderson, who wakes up every morning ready to dive for a loose ball and grab a back-side rebound against a kid twice as tall as he is.
Go ahead Albany High, inspire me. Take my heart away on a ride to Macon none of us will forget.
TORNADOES READY TO MAKE A RUN: I can’t write about Macon without talking about Monroe. I don’t know if there’s a team I want to get there more than the Tornadoes. They have to get by Round 1 on Saturday against Howard without Super 6er big man Rantavious Gilbert, who is nursing an ankle injury. But if the Nadas beat Howard — and they will — I’m looking for Gilbert to come back with a fury.
You’re going to need a calculator to count the blocked shots he racks up in the tournament, and by the time the Tornadoes land in Macon, everyone in Georgia is going to be talking about how tough it is to score on Marquis Davis’ defense and how impossible it is to stop Jabari McGhee.
The Tornado is coming. You can already feel the wind.
BOBCATS ARE COMIN’: There are dangerous teams in this tournament, and that’s why you can’t look at records right now. Take Early County, one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. Early is dangerous like a cobra — and just as quick.
Teams that face the Bobcats — make that the Quickcats — can’t watch them on film and get any idea of just how fast and quick they are in person. And there’s nothing that can measure what Darontay McCoy can do with a basketball once he starts spinning toward the basket. It’s a ballet in mid-air, a dance only McCoy knows the ending to.
Ladonis Yarbrough has one of the hottest hands anywhere and can bury 3s faster than you can say “blowout,’’ which is what Early is capable of doing on any night. This is a team that scored 22 on Cook in one quarter and dropped 29 on Thomasville in a fourth-quarter comeback that shocked everyone except coach Randy Isom.
WESTOVER, DOUGHERTY READY TO MAKE WAVES?: Then there are those teams you have forgotten about, teams like Westover’s Patriots and Dougherty’s Trojans. Both will have to win twice on the road to get to the Elite 8 in Columbus, but both can get there.
There may not be a better playoff coach than Dallis Smith, who knows more about winning in the postseason than anyone in Southwest Georgia. Smith will tell his kids when they put on that Westover jersey it’s like putting on Superman’s cape.
And he will be right.
There was a 10-game stretch this season when Westover looked as good as anyone, and the guess here is that Smith captures that in the next two weeks. I watched his kids beat a monster team from South Atlanta two years ago to reach the Final Four in one of the most remarkable comebacks I’ve ever seen, and I won’t be surprised to see this year’s group rise up in the playoffs.
Whatever you do, do not pay any attention to Dougherty’s record (8-14). It just doesn’t matter. The Trojans are twice as good as the record shows and will be dangerous on the road. They are about to surprise some people, and shock others.
One thing I know is that coach Donald Poole will have his kids ready for the playoffs, and they will hit the road with a toughness about them — the very toughness it takes to walk into a top seed’s gym and steal their season.
The Trojans played an entire season without a home game in their gym, so who is going to intimidate them on the road now? No one. Besides, no team can challenge them as much as Poole.
Dougherty’s girls have that same kind of toughness about them, and Monroe’s girls are once again the most improved team in this part of the state. Both are on the road tonight, and I’m looking for upsets from both to start memorable runs in the tournament.
Mitchell’s girls will win tonight and it will be the start of an even bigger run, because the stars — A’Miracle Jones and Shonbreka Holton — are only sophomores.
And then there’s Westover’s incomparable Lady Patriots. Anyone who reads this paper already knows how I feel about this team, and how much I want them to bring home a state title.
They have been dealt the toughest draw in the state.
It will make their run that much more inspiring.
Go ahead, inspire me.
I can’t wait.