The whispers haven’t gone unheard within the Westside locker room.
In mid-January, the Seminoles had a full head of steam on the way toward a region title. But a leg injury in the closing minutes of a win against Central, Westside’s sixth region win in a row, put the Seminoles into uncertain territory.
How would the Seminoles make up for Khavon Moore’s 22 points and nearly nine rebounds per game average? Who would be able to step and help Westside not only make a run at a region title, not to mention push deep into the playoffs?
Turns out, the Seminoles have taken the challenge in stride.
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After wins over Islands and Crisp County in the first two rounds of the tournament, Westside (20-10) finds itself about where it was predicted at the start of the season — in the quarterfinal round of the GHSA Class 3A state tournament. A win Wednesday night at Hart County puts Westside in the state semifinals where it would play either Jenkins or Cedar Grove on Saturday. The semifinal round for 3A teams will take place at Armstrong Atlantic.
“A lot of people wrote us off when Khavon got hurt. A lot of people were saying we were only a slightly above average team without Khavon,” Westside head coach Josh Grube said. “We felt like we had guys who could play, and we had guys that kind of too that person, people saying things like we couldn’t win a region championship or make a run without Khavon. So our guys kind of have a chip on their shoulder.”
Since Moore’s injury, Westside has found numerous players to help carry the load, especially in the front court. Along the way, the Seminoles have won 10 out of 12 games.
Moore’s enjoyed seeing his teammate band together and accept the challenge of silencing their doubters.
“It’s good. A lot of people were saying ‘they wouldn’t get up there without Khavon.’ They’ve stuck together and are playing good,” Moore said.
Senior forward Gregory Holloway has kept up the strong play, averaging 18.5 and 12 rebounds points per game. Senior forward Omar Jones has helped bolster things inside with around eight rebounds a game. Most recently, he proved tough in the second-round win against Crisp County, pouring in 17 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. In that same win, guard Desmon Foston’s 10-point effort highlighted an offensive effort that Grube says may have been his best game all season.
“We felt confident in all our guys. We miss Khavon, but Khavon’s injury actually allows other guys to have more of a role,” Grube said. “(Foston) has stepped up. Omar Jones has really become more of an offensive threat, which we knew he could be.”
Through it all, Moore hasn’t been far away. Either from his vantage point just a few feet behind the team’s bench during games or by speaking to younger players before games, Moore has been anything but detached from the team.
Those younger players have risen to the occasion as of late. Fittingly, they also play Moore’s position: guard.
“We’re excited, Javian Moseley and Kowacie Reeves, even though they are freshman, they really have stepped up,” senior guard Brenden Anderson said.
Reeves ripped Crisp County for 15 points the last time out, and Javian Mosley’s solid output of 10 and seven points in the past two games is a level of production of which the Seminoles will likely be looking for against Hart County.
“Last year, we got stopped in the Elite Eight. This year, we want to go out and prove we can do it without Khavon,” Foston said. “We come in every day with a chip on our shoulder and go hard every day in practice. We feel like we have something to prove.”
Area quarterfinal games
Central at Morgan County, 7 p.,m. Wednesday (winner plays winner of GAC/Johnson of Savannah, 4 p.m. Saturday at Armstrong Atlantic)
Westside at Hart County, 6 p.m. Wednesday (winner plays winner of Jenkins of Savannah/Cedar Grove, 8 p.m. Saturday at Armstrong Atlantic)
Warner Robins at Lithonia, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (winner plays winner of Clarke Central and Stockbridge, 8 p.m. Saturday at Fort Valley State University)