Warner Robins coach Jamaal Garman has been selling his team on the notion of become legends.
Garman, who graduated from Warner Robins, has the team back in the state championship game for the second time in four years. A victory over Miller Grove in the Class AAAAA finale would give the Demons their first boys basketball championship and leave an indelible mark on the program.
“We’ve been telling them they would be legends,” Garman said. “This would be something they would still be talking about 20 or 30 years later.”
Warner Robins (27-3) will meet Miller Grove (23-7) for the championship Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Macon Coliseum. It will follow the Class AAAAA girls championship game between Buford and Flowery Branch, which begins at 6 p.m. Click here to read about the girls game.
The Miller Grove program is already legendary. The Wolverines have won seven state championships over the last nine years. Second-coach Rasul Chester has emphasized all year how his team is hungry to again reclaim the championship; Miller Grove lost in the semifinals last season.
“Miller Grove is a good, athletic team,” Garman said. “They’ve got that Miller Grove swagger. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Both teams are playing at a very high level. Warner Robins has won 13 straight games, including the Region 1 championship. Miller Grove has won four straight; the Wolverines had a 10-game winning streak snapped by Southwest DeKalb in the Region 5 semifinals and had to play their first three playoff games on the road.
The teams are a contrast in styles. Warner Robins is all about scoring points – the Demons average 80 points. Miller Grove is about playing defense – the Wolverines average 52 points, behind only Lithonia among Region 5 schools.
Warner Robins starts five seniors: Nelson Phillips, Jacolbey Owens, Champ Dawson, Jaydon Norman and Jam’l Dillard. Phillips and Owens are the team’s leading scorers; Nelson has signed with Georgia State. Garman referred to Norman as “my glue” because of his willingness to do a lot of the dirty work.
They’ll have their work cut out against Miller Grove, which brings a hard-nosed approach that makes it difficult to get easy looks and contests every shot. The Wolverines attack the basket on offense – although they have 3-point potential – and protect the rim on defense.
Miller Grove starts T.J. Stargell, Jermon Clark, Kevin Paige, Lorenzo Anderson and Maurice Harvey, the Region 5 Player of the Year. Harvey has had a breakout postseason, including 30 points against Buford in the second round and a game-high 11 against Hiram in the semifinals.
In the playoffs, Warner Robins has beaten Ware County 96-63, Eagle’s Landing 94-82, Lithonia 67-64 and Clarke Central 77-57. Miller Grove has beaten Riverwood 69-49, defending state champion Buford 79-75, Dutchtown 70-56 and Hiram 54-41.