In past years, while winning state titles, Wilkinson County has had some level of a star-studded lineup.
The 2017-18 version of the Warriors is no such group.
Except, of course, state champions again. For the 10th time. With no losses in championship games.
Two free throws each in the final 28 seconds from Raequan Smith and Brandon Mayes sealed the deal as a blue-collar Wilkinson County held off Montgomery County 71-68 Wednesday night for the GHSA Class A public boys state title.
It is Wilkinson County’s third straight, and 10th under head coach Aaron Geter.
“You would never think a poor little country boy from Alamo, Georgia could go through an experience like this,” said Geter, who was a standout basketball player at Mercer. “A program like Wilkinson County, year in and year, these kids will always have an opportunity to be successful and compete for a state championship.”
Montgomery County, in its first championship game since Class B in 1975, came mighty close to breaking that streak.
The Eagles (29-4) kept the Warriors (26-6) from making that one big run, and stayed close despite some poor shot selection, especially in the fourth quarter.
They trailed 62-54 with 2:44 left in the game, and got a 3-poiner from Daquan Jackson and then a steal and layup from Shaw Robinson to pull within 67-66 with 29.2 seconds left.
Montgomery County just missed a steal on an inbounds pass, and fouled, Smith making both.
Jackson drove for a bucket with 18.9 seconds left to make it a one-point game again, and Mayes then went to the line with 10.1 seconds left, hitting both.
The Eagles put up a rushed and off-balance heave that missed everything, going out of bounds with 1.6 seconds left, and the celebration for the third straight title was soon on.
“You’re playing against a program that’s hungry, and it’s easy for our kids to become complacent, be satisfied with what they’ve done,” Geter said. “They fought all year long, positioned themselves, and then tonight, came up very successful.”
Jaylen Lamar led Wilkinson County with 22 points, while Devin Jones added 12 points. Post Tylan Grable had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Warriors survived a huge night from 6-4 Jahleel Wilson, who had 27 points, six rebound, six blocks – including three on one possession – and three steals.
Daveanun Coglin had 19 points, but no other Eagles had more than seven points, and they were outrebounded 47-31.
The final game of the first day of championships returning to a very much spruced-up Coliseum was the best of the day, and the most crowded with about 95 percent of the arena full.
And 100 percent loud in a game that stayed close and had plenty of action, on the court and sideline.
Geter earned a technical foul 57 seconds after being warned.
Shaw Robinson made 1 of 2, and Wilson drained a long 3. Then after Wilson blocked three shots on one trip, the Eagles tied it at 49 on Coglin’s drive with 1:30 left in the third.
Montgomery County got off to a slightly better start than Wilkinson County, but the veterans of championships crept back for a 20-18 lead after one.
The Warriors picked up the pace for a 29-21 lead only for the Eagles to answer and tied it at 32. A tip-in by Montgomery County’s Kameron Wideman, among the most space-eating players on the floor, tied it at 38 going into halftime.
The team used to the stage made just enough plays down the stretch to hold the lead.
“You just try to make it tough,” Geter said. “You’re not going to stop those kids. Those kids offensively are very talented. You just hope to be in a position to make a play when you have to win a ballgame, and that’s what we did.”