HIAWASSEE — They may go down as a one-year wonder, or not, but right now the Towns County boys basketball team is just soaking up the atmosphere of the program’s best-ever run in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs.
It had been since 1974 that any Towns County team had advanced past the second round of the GHSA playoffs. No team had ever gotten to the quarterfinals. On Saturday, the Indians will take on Chattahoochee County in the Class A Public semifinals in Cusseta with a chance to play for a berth in their first-ever state championship game.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to represent Towns County in the Final Four,” Towns County coach Rob Benson said on Friday. “It means a lot for us to get to this point, as basketball is a long season and it takes a lot to persevere through that grind.”
The Indians (23-3) have shown grit and resilience over the previous two rounds. At home in the second round against Warren County, they hit 27 consecutive free throws in a physical 77-67 win. Against Irwin County in the quarterfinals, they used a 13-7 run over the final four minutes, including hitting four free throws in the final 30 seconds, for a 61-55 road victory to advance to their first-ever Final Four.
Benson said the win over Irwin County could give them some extra confidence on Saturday.
“We did gain a lot of confidence from the win over Irwin,” he said. “We had players step up and make plays when needed. It was a balanced team effort for sure.”
But long before they even got to the playoffs, Benson said he had an inkling that his group could be onto something special.
“I did see this team as a state contender several times this season,” he said. “We played (Class 7A) Collins Hill to 10 points (a 78-68 loss) at their place in a fast paced game, and then Anderson Christian (S.C.) to a one-point game (77-76 loss) without (Jake) McTaggart. I saw that we were able to be successful at either style.
“We also had some key (region) wins over tough Lincoln County and Social Circle teams and a big win over (Class 2A-ranked) Banks County was also a big moment.”
The Indians bring an 11-game win streak into the matchup with the Panthers (16-1) who have won 13 straight. Chattahoochee County's only loss was to St. Anne-Pacelli, which advanced to the Class A Private quarterfinals.
The key matchup will be the Indians offense against the Chattahoochee County defense. And something will have to give.
Towns County is averaging 73.1 points a game while the Panthers have only given up 46.2 ppg over their last eight games. Towns County guards Kyle Oakes, Aidan Berrong, and Kolby Moss may be the answer. All three were instrumental in both of the Indians’ last two playoff wins, controlling the tempo and making key free throws down the stretch.
“(Chattahoochee) does a great job with their press and turning defense into offense,” Benson said. “I feel that in order for us to win (Saturday), we need to limit turnovers.”
The winner will take on the winner of the Hancock Central-Dublin semifinal on Saturday, March 13 at 12:30 p.m. at the Macon Centreplex for the state title.