Josh Grube enjoyed the lift off the floor one of his assistants gave him as time expired in Saturday’s GHSA Region 4-3A championship game at Central.
Saturday marked the fifth time Grube had taken a Westside team to a region championship game. The 81-76 victory was the first time his team left victorious.
Yes, Grube and his team were definitely going to celebrate that one, even if there were bigger goals to be accomplished.
“That was one of our goals,” Grube said. “We had a really good summer this year. We kind of knew coming into this year that we had a chance to do something special, and to get our first region championship since 1999, we’re very excited.”
Westside, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by Score Atlanta for most of the season and No. 1 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a good chunk of the campaign, is certainly a contender for bigger things. Yet the victory over Central got Westside (23-3) over sort of a hump, giving the program top billing in Macon after falling to other programs in Macon in past region title games.
“It was big for us,” said Westside’s Khavon Moore, who is averaging 23 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and is ranked by recruiting sites as the top junior in Georgia. “The last couple of years, we made it, but we never won. For Coach Grube to get that win finally, it meant a lot.
“He was happy, and it made us happy.”
With a week between that region title victory and this Saturday’s first-round Class 3A tournament game against Long County, there has been plenty of time to pivot from region tournament play to state competition.
Grube and his staff have spent the week getting Westside refocused, putting a lot of time into preparing for what’s ahead against potentially unfamiliar opponents.
“Having that week off is big,” Grube said. “We’re big on preparation. That will give us more time to study films, study their players, see what they do well, see what other teams don’t do well. Plus it gives us some time to sit back and recharge our batteries a little bit. But our guys are ready for Saturday.”
Long County, which Westside will host at 5 p.m. on Saturday, is a team that finished second in Region 2-3A during the regular season but slipped to the No. 4 seed following region tournament play.
The Blue Tide have lost three straight, including two games in their region tournament, and six of their past eight.
Long County (16-12) does not have a senior on its roster. The scoring load is spread across four juniors, each averaging 10-15 points per game.
Henry Blair is the leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, with Terry Smith, Christian Bass and Ryheim Izzard also averaging double-figures.
“Going into state, we talk about preparation,” Moore said. “Coach Grube talks about it a lot. It’s about coming to the gym ready to practice, ready to practice hard, get in and out quick, just be ready to play.”