Seminole County boys basketball coach Kevin Godwin said he was surprised as anyone to find out his team moved up from No. 4 to No. 1 in the final state power rankings that were released this week, making the Indians the No. 1 seed for the GHSA Class A public school tournament that begins Saturday.
DONALSONVILLE — Kevin Godwin had to show them, had to physically show his kids in black and white.
That’s what it took for Godwin to convince the players at Seminole County that the Indians were the
No. 1 Class A public school boys basketball team in Georgia.
“We printed out the bracket and I showed them that we were No. 1,’’ said Godwin, whose team made the leap from No. 4 to No. 1 in the final state rankings this week. “They were as surprised as I was. I told them, and they didn’t believe me, and I had to show them on paper. They were like, ‘What? Us?’
“They were surprised. I was surprised.’’
The whole season has been a bit of a surprise for Godwin’s team, which has three freshmen in the starting lineup.
When Seminole beat Mitchell — which was ranked No. 2 in the state — for the Region 1-A title, Godwin said that at the beginning of the year with three freshmen starting, he would have never expected in “100 years” to win the region title.
That title and the domino effect of other region championship games catapulted Seminole to the No. 1 spot in the state rankings and made the Indians the top-seed in the 16-team state playoffs that begin Saturday. Seminole County will be at home at 7 p.m. against No. 16 Stewart County.
Seminole was No. 4, but the top three ranked teams — Wilkinson County, Mitchell County and Wilcox County — all lost in their region title game and dropped in the rankings.
Under the new format for Class A schools, in which there is a public school title and a private school title, the region champions earn the top seeds in the state playoffs, and the rest of the 16-team field is filled out by the state power rankings.
Only four public schools won region titles — Seminole, Turner County, Portal and Hawkinsville Those are the top four seeds, respectively. Wilkinson, which has been No. 1 most of the season, fell to the fifth seed. No. 2 Mitchell slipped to the No. 6 seed and Wilcox, which was third in the rankings, dropped to the No. 7 seed.
“Going in, you never would have thought everything would fall the way it did for us to be No. 1,’’ Godwin said. “It took some really good teams to fall for that to happen, and the odds of everyone in front of us losing weren’t very good.
“Hopefully, we will play well enough to prove it. There’s a difference in having it and proving you deserve it,’’ he added. “We’ve got to show we’re deserving of that ranking. I told the kids that. It’s been kind of a motivational tool. I showed them we were the No. 1 seed and asked them, ‘How are you going to handle it?’ ”
The Indians, who have only one senior in the starting lineup, have handled their season with incredible poise for being so young and an unselfish style of play that makes it difficult for opponents to defend.
“We really don’t have one star,’’ Godwin said. “We get points from everywhere.’’
Jordan Harris and Jamal Martin, a pair of 6-foot-2 freshmen, have led the scoring. Both are averaging 14.5 points a game, but the Indians also get about 10 points a game from freshman Jahmyka Pearson and 10 to 12 points a night from senior Jakhari Martin. The scoring is so balanced that John Hudson, a 6-1 wide body who can hit the 3, has come off the bench to lead Seminole in scoring in five games this season. Robert Speights, a 6-1 junior who starts, has also had his moments along with Shavon Wiggans, who has come off the bench to add to the Indians’ big season.
“I think that’s been the key,’’ Godwin said. “We have so many people who can score. We don’t go to one person. Our ability to score from all the positions on the floor is really the key to our success. We can have four or five guys score in double figures. We just get production from so many people.’’
Godwin said he knew this team had talent, but he also knew it was so young with three freshmen in the starting lineup.
“It’s been an unexpected season,’’ Godwin added. “I just didn’t expect us to play as well as we did against some of the teams we played. I knew we had talent. I knew it was coming. You know that saying: ‘You know it’s coming.’ I just didn’t expect it to come this year.’’
Godwin said everything changed after Seminole beat Randolph-Clay, 75-69, in overtime Dec. 11 in the fourth game of the season.
“(Randolph-Clay) had been playing really well, and when we won that game it was like the light came on,’’ Godwin said. “That was an emotional game. To beat someone that you’re not used to beating. That’s when you started thinking we can beat these teams. When we won that game, you’re thinking if we keep playing well we can be pretty special. To me, the light came on that night.’’
Seminole (21-5) just kept winning and lost only twice in the region — both times to Mitchell County, including a 55-54 OT loss in Donalsonville. But the Indians avenged those losses with a 74-67 victory in the region title game last weekend to emerge as the best team from the most competitive region in the state.
Five Region 1-A teams — Seminole, Mitchell County, Randolph-Clay, Terrell County, and Stewart County — earned berths to the state playoffs. No other region had more than two teams make the cut.
“It just shows how strong our region is,’’ said Randolph-Clay coach Michael Hoffpauir, whose team moved up from No. 20 to No. 13 in the final weeks of the season and lost to Seminole, 70-65, in the region semifinals last week.
Mitchell will play host to No. 11 seed Greenville at 6 p.m. on Saturday, while No. 13 Randolph-Clay travels to Hawkinsville for a 5 p.m. game on Saturday.
Terrell County, which enters as the No. 15 seed, travels to play No. 2 Turner County at 7:30 p.m. tonight as part of a doubleheader. This is the third time in the last five years that Terrell and Turner have met in the state playoffs. They split games in 2009 and 2011, with the Greenwave winning the last meeting before moving on to eventually play for the Class A state title.
Randolph-Clay’s Lady Red Devils, who were ranked No. 1 from Day 1 of the state rankings, finished with an exclamation point, beating Mitchell County, 73-46, to win the Region 1-A title and enter the state playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
“It was important for us to maintain our No. 1 ranking,’’ Randolph-Clay coach Jennifer Acree said. “It means we will be at home (until the Final Four), and we wanted to play those games at home.’’
The Lady Red Devils (26-2) ended the regular season as the No. 1 team in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll and have now won 26 of the last 27 games, including 16 in a row. They play No. 16 Portal at 6 p.m. today in the Joe Williams Gym, where they went unbeaten this season.
Four teams from Region 1-A earned berths in the girls state playoffs. Mitchell County enters as the No. 9 seed and travels to No. 8 Irwin County for a 6 p.m. game today. If Mitchell and Randolph-Clay both win, they would meet each other in the Elite 8 round next Tuesday at Randolph-Clay.
Seminole County’s Lady Indians earned a berth as the No. 14 seed and travel to face No. 3 Marion County at 6 p.m. today, and No. 15 Calhoun County will play at 5 p.m. today at Towns County.
There are two other girls playoff games tonight — both Sweet 16 games.
Monroe’s Lady Tornadoes face Howard at Monroe in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs, and Dougherty’s girls travel to Mary Persons in the Class AAAA Sweet 16. Both games begin at 6 p.m.
The Pelham girls team will wait until Saturday to travel and face McIntosh Academy at 5 p.m. in the Sweet 16 round of the Class AA state playoffs.