Westover grad and Albany Tech sophomore Kenji Breedlove might not start for the Titans, but he is part of a deep bench that will be key in tonight’s Region XVII tournament opener.
ALBANY — Jamorris Gaines had an idea, and Albany Tech coach Sylvester Patterson just went with it.
Everything else has worked for Albany Tech’s star forward this season, so why not let him set the dress code for today’s Region XVII tournament opener against Chattahoochee Tech?
As soon as Gaines heard his No. 4 Titans would be hosting their first-round game at Darton College because their home court (Albany State’s HPER Gym) was being used for today’s primary elections, he called for a “Black Out” and is asking fans to wear all black today at Darton.
“We went with the ‘Black Out,’ and we are going to wear black uniforms,” Patterson said. “As long as they think they have the advantage, I’m with it.”
Gaines, a former Worth County star who led the region in scoring with 19 points, and the Titans have had the advantage against Chattahoochee all season. The Titans won a Dec. 9 matchup between the two teams, 66-58, and former Westover star Terrance Noel banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer to give Albany Tech a 57-56 victory on Jan. 31.
The Titans are coming off a season-ending victory against Waycross College, and Patterson said the team is starting to click at just the right time.
However, it could be a potential momentum killer when the Titans travel to a Darton gym they haven’t stepped foot in all season until Monday. Albany Tech had a two-hour shootaround Monday to try to get acquainted with the rims and the shooting environment, which is more enclosed than the spacious ASU gym.
“We are just going to adapt. But I won’t be taking any shots any way, this is the man you need to be talking to,” Albany Tech sophomore Patrick Lewis said as he pointed to Gaines.
Gaines, the “Black Out” mastermind, has been a force for the Titans all season. He led them with 28 and 23 points in their two wins against Chattahoochee and said he is ready to play tonight’s tournament opener after initially being caught off guard by the change in venue.
“We’re still in Albany, so we are still going to have fans come out and show us love,” Gaines said. “Everybody is saying that we need to get this win. We are the only college team left (in Albany).”
The Albany State men’s and women’s basketball teams bowed out of their conference tournaments March 1, and the Darton and Albany Tech women’s teams were ousted from the Region XVII tournament by eventual champion Georgia Perimeter. The city’s final hope for a collegiate conference title rests with Albany Tech, which has never played in a region title game and was eliminated in the first round last year by Waycross.
Patterson said a balanced conference and a streaky Albany Tech team could surprise some people this week.
“The talent is here,” Patterson said during Saturday’s practice. “They seem to be clicking defensively at the right time, and this year there is no real dominant team (in the region). The league was really balanced this year, so this could be the year when a team gets hot and wins three games in a row and wins it all. It wouldn’t surprise me if the eighth-place team won it all.”
Gaines, who was recently named to the Region XVII First Team, will need fellow starters Lewis, Harrison Gibson and Antonio Allen and a deep bench to step up against a Chattahoochee team that features Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, a 6-11 center from Highland, Ind., who leads the nation in blocked shots and was named the region’s defensive player of the year.
“That’s big for us. It’s big for any team,” Lewis said about having a deep bench. “The first five go out there, and then the next five can go out and pick up that intensity and keep it rolling.”
Today’s winner will play Friday against either South Georgia Tech or top seed Georgia Perimeter.