KATHLEEN -- There is, as the old movie line goes, no place like home.
But for one night for Warner Robins, there was no place like Veterans.
Forced to play one of the biggest games in program history against one of the most herald opponents in program history away from the comforts of home, the Demons ended one of the state’s most impressive streaks.
Marquez Callaway’s remarkable night of perfection at the free-throw line was the difference as Warner Robins knocked off Miller Grove 63-57 in overtime Thursday night in a GHSA Class AAAAA quarterfinal game.
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“I’d still rather play in my little old 840-seat gym,” Warner Robins head coach Jamaal Garman said. “But yeah, this worked out pretty well.”
Miller Grove will not be hoisting a state title trophy for the first time since the 2007-08 season, the team the Wolverines hammered in last year’s title game getting revenge in a thrilling game.
The Demons didn’t have trouble with depth perception in the much larger gym, which was filled a full half hour before tip, but they did have plenty of issues with ball control and bad passes.
“I’ve had much better-looking six-point wins,” Garman said. “But none as beautiful.”
Callaway’s 17-for-17 night at the line saved the Demons. Never was he more clutch than in overtime, when he hit three in one trip for a 58-57 lead with 44.4 seconds left and two more 17 seconds later after a Miller Grove turnover.
“I block everything out,” Callaway said. “It’s just me and the goal.”
The upset bid looked weak inside the final two minutes of the fourth quarter with the Wolverines taking a 50-45 lead on Alterique Gilbert’s three-point play with 1:45 left.
Miller Grove had the possession arrow on a tie-up but turned the ball right back over. And Callaway made two free throws.
Gilbert just lost the ball under some pressure, and Callaway made two free throws. Gilbert hit one for a 51-49 lead with 19.7 seconds left, and 8.2 seconds later, Callaway made a shot inside to force overtime.
In overtime, Gamaun Boykins got Miller Grove off to a good start with a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound, and Stephone Raybon got one point back. Then the game started to turn. Gilbert was whistled for a charge, Warner Robins failed to score, and then Gilbert drove and scored, but the basket was wiped out by another charge call.
That was his fifth foul, and the player who Garman called the Wolverines’ engine was done with 2:04 left.
Nate Curtis scored off the glass to tie it, and it was knotted at 55 with 1:12 left before Miller Grove’s Lamont West (17 points) made two free throws with 58.5 seconds left.
And then it was in Callaway’s hands. The clincher came when Aiden Saunders lost the ball on a drive with the Wolverines down 58-57, and Callaway was fouled.
Zamire Winters added a free throw and Curtis a putback in the final seconds to seal it.
And most of the 2,200 or so on hand went nuts as the Demons advanced to Saturday’s semifinal game at Fort Valley State.
The largest lead was nine, held by Warner Robins in the third quarter. Naturally, the defending state champs came back and tied it, the game heading to the fourth tied at 34 with the Demons scoreless the final 2:13 of the third.
Offensive rebounds helped the Wolverines ease ahead by four several times in the fourth as the Demons continued to force passes.
But Warner Robins remained calm, even when the Wolverines seemed to be sharper in taking the five-point lead late.
The statement win eventually came.
“We think teams will start respecting us more,” said Callaway, who finished with 24 points. “We’re a football town, and we stopped a team that had six straight state championships.
“I think that put us a little higher on the map in basketball.”