Westover senior T.J. Cromer shows his disappointment as he walks off the floor following Wednesday’s home loss to Eagles Landing in the Class AAAA Elite 8, 85-61. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Trevin Joseph said he was feeling it Wednesday night.
Well, that’s not true.
He was feeling it all day and all night.
“I was feeling it when I was waking up this morning,’’ said Joseph, who burned down the nets at the Boston Garden, dropping 27 points to lead Eagles Landing to a 85-61 win against Westover in the Class AAAA state Elite 8 on Wednesday night.
“I was feeling it,’’ he said. “I woke up and I was ready to go to the Final Four.’’
That’s where Eagles Landing, the top-ranked Class AAAA team in Georgia, is headed. The Golden Eagles will now face South Atlanta at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in the state semifinals at Fort Valley State.
Eagles Landing was as good as advertised.
“We knew they were going come to play, but of all the tapes I saw of them in games this year they never shot the ball like that,’’ Westover coach Dallis Smith said. “(Joseph) just didn’t miss.’’
Eagles Landing, which has drawn statewide attention because of its enormous front line that stands at 6-foot-10, 6-8 and 6-8, scored from everywhere on the court — and scored often. The Golden Eagles went to halftime shooting 58 percent from the field and 60 percent (6 of 10) from beyond the arc.
And then shot even better in the third quarter.
They led, 64-43, after three, and at that point they had made 27 of 45 shots (60 percent) from the field, and made 9 of 15 3-pointers (also 60 percent). Backups played the fourth quarter.
To get an idea how hot Eagles Landing was, all you had to do was watch Desmond Ringer, a 6-10 center, pull up and fire in a 3-pointer during an 11-2 run late in the second quarter.
“When a 6-10 kid hits a 3, you know it’s a pretty good night,’’ said Eagles Landing coach Clay Crump, whose team has now won 17 in a row.
Joseph, a 6-2 guard, was on fire and led the way, and Isaiah Dennis, a 6-0 guard, went flying to the net all night and finished with 14 points, including a windmill dunk that had the standing-room-only crowd buzzing. Ringer finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Eagles Landing dominated the boards, out-rebounding Westover, 35-17.
Eagles Landing hit five of its first seven shots and led, 11-2, but Westover battled back and trailed just 22-18 after the first quarter. The Patriots caught Eagles Landing at 28-28 when Herald Super 6er T.J. Cromer hit a 3 with 3:56 left in the first half, but Joseph sparked an 11-2 run. He hit a drive, then came right back with a 3-pointer — and after Super 6er Kell Miller nailed an outside shot for Westover, Joseph answered with another trey. Then Ringer knocked down his 3, and Chris Davenport, a 6-8 forward, hit a putback to lift Eagles Landing to a 41-30 halftime lead.
Eagles Landing (26-5) just kept coming.
“They are an aggressive team’’ said Joseph, who scored a career-high 37 points earlier this year. “We knew they were a good team and we didn’t take them for granted. We don’t take anyone for granted. They’re aggressive and they’re good, but I just think we wanted it more.’’
Westover shot just 38 percent from the field through the first three quarters and fell behind by 21 points before both teams went to the bench in the fourth. The Patriots have been shooting close to 50 percent between the region tournament and the state playoffs.
“I saw six tapes of them, and they really shoot the ball well,’’ Crump said. “They didn’t shoot the ball as well (Wednesday) as I had seen them shoot it. They just had an off night. And we shot well. Trevin Joseph was really hot.’’
Crump knows all about Westover and the strong tradition of a program that has won six state titles.
“I think they lived up to their tradition,’’ he said. “I played at Thomas County Central in Thomasville, and I remember coming into this gym against those Westover teams and getting beaten. They have a great tradition here.’’
Smith had nothing but praise for his kids, the last team in Albany standing. Westover had an amazing season and finished at 23-6 and lost to only three teams — Eagles Landing, Tift County, the top-ranked Class AAAAA team in Georgia that also fell Wednesday to North Cobb, and rival Monroe, which saw Westover avenge three losses to the Tornadoes with a victory in the Region 1-A title game.
“I’m really proud of them,’’ Smith said of his kids. “We had a great year.’’
Cromer, who averaged more than 25 points over his last four games in the stretch run, led the Patriots with 21 points. Miller had his moments and finished with 17 points. Two juniors stepped up big for Westover as C.J. Davis and Khalil Carson banged inside with the much taller Golden Eagles. Davis finished with 10 points and six rebounds, and Carson scored on two 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds.
“This will make us work hard to come back next year,’’ said Carson, a 6-4 forward. “I expect to come back and be even better next year.’’
That was the feeling with the underclassmen.
“I wasn’t intimidated by their size. Being so close to the Final Four just makes me want to work harder for next year,” said Davis, a 6-5 forward. “This (loss) will help motivate us. We’ll be back. We’re going to the Final Four next year.’’