After Westside dispatched of Monroe Area in the second round of the GHSA Class 3A boys basketball tournament Thursday, Khavon Moore was asked about an article that appeared on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.
A week ago, the AJC put together a question-and-answer piece with Wendell Carter, the Pace Academy big man and Duke signee who is ranked as the top senior in the state. The headline: Pace star plans to go out “on top.”
For Carter and his teammates to do that, of course, they would need to beat Westside. Pace Academy hosts the Seminoles at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
“I see the state tournament playing out with Pace Academy on top, of course,” Carter told the AJC in an article that also brought up Carter’s time with the U.S. age group national teams. “To be honest, I don’t know who will be our toughest competition, but I know that we will be ready.”
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So did Moore, the state’s top-ranked junior, see the article?
“No, I didn’t see that,” Moore said, not taking up the bait of potential bulletin board material.
For high school basketball fans, Wednesday’s game has been one that has been awaited all season. Westside has been ranked No. 1 for much of the season, while Pace Academy finished the season second in the AJC rankings and third, behind Liberty County, in the Score Atlanta rankings.
Indeed, if the GHSA were to redraw the brackets following the second round, as the organization does with volleyball, this matchup likely would be slated as a championship affair, not a quarterfinal.
Yet, regardless of where the game falls in the postseason, this Westside-Pace Academy game isn’t a total culture clash.
In fact, thanks to the AAU scene, there’s a good bit of familiarity between the teams.
“I’ve played against him a lot,” said Moore of Carter. “It’s new (on the high school level), but I’m just going to play my game.”
There’s always some management of expectations going on during the postseason. How many times do we hear the “take one game at a time” cliche? There’s good reason for that: Coaches don’t want their teams to lose focus, even if the preceding game is expected to become one of those contests where the entire roster sees plenty of playing time, such as what Westside has experienced in its two Class 3A Tournament victories so far.
Westside head coach Josh Grube is doing plenty of that this weekend. In a game driven by a matchup of five-star super prospects, one of Grube’s jobs will be to make sure Moore doesn’t feel too much pressure or have the bar raised so high that Moore has to overcompensate.
“We’re looking forward to it, but it’s not going to be Wendell Carter vs. Khavon Moore,” Grube said. “Westside has numerous players on our team, and it’s not going to be a Wendell Carter vs. Khavon Moore game. The game is going to come down to the other players on the floor. We like our guys, and we know Pace Academy has a good team. We’re going to have our hands full, and we’re going to have to get to work on them right away.”
The game might not come down to Carter vs. Moore, but interest in the game certainly will be driven by Carter vs. Moore. It certainly will be a measuring stick game for Westside, which won its first region title since 1999 earlier this month and is trying to become the first Bibb County team to win a boys basketball state title since Southwest in 1989.
If the Seminoles keep putting things together quickly like they have the past couple of weeks, Westside has a shot.