State champs! Demons win thriller for first title

Warner Robins only made one of 11 3-point attempts, but the one that went in was solid gold.

With 51 seconds on the game clock, and the game tied at 64, the Demons brought the ball up the court. Champ Dawson stopped just inside the line and went stationary as he continued to dribble. Warner Robins appeared to be playing for the last shot and Thursday’s GHSA Class AAAAA state finals opponent Miller Grove backed off as if it was content to let it. With about 15 seconds left, the Wolverines switched to pressing the issue. The Demons passed left but then went back up top where a few more seconds ran off.

Finally, with about six seconds left, Jacobley Owens went right. Two defenders met him. He split them only to see another closing in fast. He pump faked and then let loose with a fade-away shot from about two feet outside the arch. Nothing but net (although he said later he really thought it would be a “rebound”). Warner Robins stormed the court of the Macon Centreplex.

It turned out prematurely as the officials put :01.3 back on the clock, but that turned out to be nothing but a formality. The Wolverines inbounded it but never got off a shot. Now the Demons stormed the court again, this time with the first-ever state basketball championship officially in the books.

“A great season for the guys,” said Head Coach Jamaal Garman, who added he was glad one, that they had the ball at the end of the game, and two, that Miller Grove chose to play zone and allow them the opportunity to have the ball at the end of the game (the last shot).

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he continued. “They gave it all they could for me. I’m trying not to cry now, (but) I hear Coach (Chip) Malone in my ear. ‘Hoss, I told you. I told you.’

“So it’s really big for me now … I’m ready to get fitted (for the ring).”

Garman also added he had one word for them during the postseason: “legendary. Be ‘legendary’. Be somebody that’s going to leave a mark. You don’t want to be like the other teams we’ve had here that have had great seasons then get in the playoffs and lose in the Elite Eight, Final Four, get in the championship and lose.

“I said, ‘Those were good teams. I want you to be a great team by getting out there and winning the state championship.’ And that’s what happened.”

Initially, there might not have been any doubt from Demon-nation, but the scoreboard said different. Miller Grove opened up the game with the first seven points.

Even when Warner Robins began to connect, it wasn’t able to gain much ground. It was 15-10 after one, but four of those points came back-to-back as the clock wound down. Further, the Wolverines pushed it back up to seven, 17-10, with the first basket to start the second quarter.

Still, the Demons were able to keep them from pushing it out any farther. That was thanks to some free-throw shooting becoming part of the equation. They weren’t very effective in that area during that span of time – just 5-of-14 – but that was enough to keep them within striking range. Nelson Phillips (16 points), with a put-back, brought them within three, 23-20, with 2:50 on the clock. Miller Grove made it five again with a basket, but Owens (24 points to lead all scorers) cut it back to two, 25-23, with a short jumper.

It went back-and-forth like that for a couple more trips before Jaydon Norman (13 points) tied it with a layup, 29-all. That was with 12 seconds showing. That lasted just until Timothy Stargell, Jr. (7 points) hit a basket on the other end to make it 31-29, which is where it stood at the half.

Kevin Page (4 points) made it 33-29 to jump start the third quarter, but Norman hit two free throws and Jam’l Dillard (4 points) hit a short jumper following. That tied it.

The Wolverines turned it over on their trip down the floor. That resulted in an Owens layup and Warner Robins’ first lead of the game, 35-33.

Further, the Demons rode that momentum to a 49-39 lead with just inside two minutes left to play. Norman was 4-4 and Dawson was 2-2 from the line during that stretch as Warner Robins’ free-throw shooting also improved dramatically. Owens also had six of his points during that frame. The third came to a close with the Demons up 51-44.

Like Warner Robins in the second quarter, the Wolverines hung around and hung around in the fourth – chipped away as they could and focused on not letting the game get away.

As the four-minute mark came and went, they were down by just four, 58-54. Terrence Edwards (11 points) then hit a long trey and then after Owens missed a pair of free throws on the back end, he tied it with a layup.

Owens got another chance and hit both to make it 62-60. He also hit two more following – 7-14 in all – to make it 64-60. That was with 1:40 left to play.

Lorenzo Anderson (19 points) hit two for Miller Grove to make it 64-62 and then following a miss by the Demons on the way back, Maurice Harvey was perfect with two more to tie it.

That, of course, set up the game-winner by Owens, who afterward said: “My natural ability … and my thinking in my mind … I just wanted the ball in my hands.”