Making history by winning a sixth consecutive state title is plenty of motivation for Miller Grove.
But the Wolverines are playing for something even more important: the memory of fallen teammate Terrell “Too Tall” Coleman, who died one day before the first day of official practice, while competing in an all-star game. The promising freshman passed out shortly after coming out of the game and never regained consciousness.
In the second Class AAAAA boys semifinal game, Saturday at Fort Valley State University, Miller Grove honored Coleman’s memory and move one game closer to another title, after downing Jenkins of Savannah, 69-52. Sophomore Alterique Gilbert scored 25 points to lead Miller Grove.
Wolverine head coach Sharman White said Coleman’s spirit has been with the team throughout the season.
“The guys really want to win this one for him and his family, and they’ve said that all year that they are devoting this season to him,” White said. “He was such a great kid. His family has stayed with us the whole time. He’s still a part of us.”
Miller Grove (26-5) raced to a 15-2 lead early in the first quarter, and appeared as it was on the verge of making the game a route. But Jenkins defended Savannah’s proud basketball tradition, cutting the lead to five, 24-19, midway through the second quarter after a thunderous dunk by junior Malik Benlevi. The Warriors’ offense was triggered by senior point guard Brendan Carter, who constantly made his way into the lane, knifing through the Miller Grove defense.
“We knew what kind of guard he was and we talked all week about keeping him out of the lane because he really causes problems in there,” White said. “He played great tonight.”
But Miller Grove went on an 11-4 run to close the half up 36-25, and Wolverines pushed the lead to 46-31 midway through the third quarter, after a three-point jumper by Gilbert. Jenkins would get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
“[At halftime] we talked about treating the second half like we were 10 points down,” White said. “We played better defensively and that was the difference.”
Miller Grove will take on Warner Robins in the finals, Friday night in Macon.