After brief drought, Warriors back in Final Four

IRWINTON -- For the first time in three seasons, Wilkinson County head coach Aaron Geter huddled his players together Monday afternoon and offered a speech to get them energized for what could be another hopeful week of greatness.

“I told them, they’re at a point in their careers when they are expected to play their best,” Geter said. “They are at a point in their careers where it all boils down to execution and energy. I told them that they better be ready to play -- because (the other teams) have guys who will be ready to.”

It is the type of GHSA Final Four week speech Geter has given eight times himself and one Wilkinson County basketball players through the years have heard on 12 combined occasions.

Wednesday afternoon, when the Warriors (30-0) take to the Macon Coliseum floor to face Greenville (27-3) in the first of two GHSA Class A boys semifinals games, they will be playing in a place long familiar to the program.

“It means everything for us to get back in there,” forward Jarvis Williams told The Telegraph last Saturday. “It’s like another home game for us.”

In recent years, a large caravan made the 30-mile trek to watch the electrifying Warriors, including teams that reached and won state championship games in 2006 and 2007. A massive throng followed the team those seasons, and Geter expects nothing less this week.

In 2008, those who traveled to Macon witnessed a semifinal loss. The seniors were freshmen on the team that suffered the two-point defeat to eventual state champion Turner County.

“It’s unbelievable to be back,” Geter said. “The way it’s spread out across the community helps tremendously.”

On the defensive end of the floor, the Warriors may take as much help as they can get, whether it’s from the crowd or otherwise. As they guard the post and the perimeter, they will be matched up with a player who some regard as the state’s best: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

With 2,502 points, Caldwell-Pope is Greenville’s all-time leader. Geter began by rattling off a list of accomplishments that sounded like they fit an NBA or elite college player.

“McDonald’s All-American, his school’s leading career scorer,” Geter said. “Like I was telling another coach the other day, you can go on and put 30 (points) in the books along with eight rebounds.”

Caldwell-Pope is Greenville’s all-time leading scorer. He had 38 points when the Patriots beat Wilcox County by two points in the quarterfinals last week in Columbus.

“When you go back and you look at the books, there wasn’t anybody who could stop him all year,” Geter said. “He’s the type of player who can only stop himself. You really can’t go in thinking about completely stopping him. You have to go in thinking that you’re going to make him work for whatever he gets and that he doesn’t get too much. Hopefully we’ll be able to slow him some.”

The Warriors have their own players who can counteract Caldwell-Pope’s scoring, sparked by point guard Demonzio Stubbs. The senior Geter calls his “quarterback on the floor” is the top passer and one of the team’s top shooters. Fellow guard Ramahd Thomas leads all scorers averaging 17 points per game, while Williams and Alvin Dupree have been formidable in the low post.

Williams was the difference-maker in Saturday’s win over Pace, notching a double-double -- 30 points, 16 rebounds -- to lead the Warriors. Wilkinson County needed him to step up after missing Stubbs’ services due to foul trouble.

“He’s a veteran (player) who has been in a lot of wars for us,” Geter said of Stubbs. “We’re hoping to keep him out there the full time and out of foul trouble.”