For one area team, a big road win means a trip very close to home one short step away from playing for a state title. For another, a shot at the second win in a row in a hostile environment awaits.
Regardless of the setting or circumstances, this much is certain: Both Westside and Warner Robins stand just one game away from playing for a state championship next week at the Macon Coliseum.
The semifinals shift to predetermined neutral sites this weekend. And fortunately for the Demons, the 5A semifinal round is among the contests being hosted just a short drive away from Davis Drive on the campus of Fort Valley State. Warner Robins plays Clarke Central at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Warner Robins (25-3) is no stranger to this time of the season, finding themselves in the semifinals for the third time in five years. The Gladiators of Clarke Central are a different story. A team laden with nine seniors, this season is what many of those upperclassmen have been building toward. As a result, the Gladiators are in the semifinals for the first time in school history.
Clarke Central is 25-6, three of those losses being to defending GHSA Class 5A champion Buford. There will be no rematch for those teams, however, as a result of MIller Grove taking down Buford on the other side of the bracket in the quarterfinal round.
Rather, the athletic ability of Warner Robins to get up and down the floor will go up against the inside presence of center Clarke Central Quamonte Monfort as well as Martavius Durden. Both were integral in keeping Stockbridge off-balance in a 73-52 quarterfinals win with Monfort scoring 19 and Darden scoring 18.
While Warner Robins will enjoy the comforts of close to home, Westside will hit the road in what’ll be a de facto home semifinal game for its opponent, Jenkins of Savannah, as the game will be played on the campus of Armstrong Atlantic State University, also in Savannah, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Jenkins, a state champion in 2015, is going for state title number two in the past four years. The Seminoles are back in the semis for the first time since 1999.
For the Seminoles (21-10), it’ll simply be another task of embracing the mantle of being counted out. Westside, which held off Hart County 55-53 after controlling the game early, will again need to keep the pressure up for all four quarters in order to topple Jenkins, a team that has made battling back from early deficits a trademark this postseason. The most recent conquest was a 72-65 dismantling of Cedar Grove in the quarterfinal round.
The Warriors (24-5) are led by the 14 points average per game of Tyrone Scott and Tre Mays, Scott being able to play both guard and forward and Mays being a shooting guard. On the boards, Lamont Sams pulls down an average of around six rebounds a game.
For Westside, it’s the next challenge for a team that has time and time again kept itself together despite the late-season loss of Khavon Moore.
For both the Seminoles and Demons, one win is all that separates them from the biggest hardwood stage in the state — playing for the championship next week in Macon.
Saturday’s GHSA semifinals
AT VALDOSTA STATE
Telfair County vs. Greenville, 2 p.m.
Terrell County vs. Marion County, 6 p.m.
AT GEORGIA COLLEGE
Calhoun County vs. Montgomery County, 4 p.m.
ELCA vs. Aquinas, 8 p.m.
Model vs. Laney, 2 p.m.
Fitzgerald vs. Josey, 6 p.m.
Vidalia vs. Laney, 4 p.m.
Thomasville vs. Glenn Hills, 8 p.m.
AT ARMSTRONG ATLANTIC STATE
GAC vs. Franklin County, 2 p.m.
Johnson vs. Tattnall County, 6 p.m.
GAC vs. Morgan County, 4 p.m.
Westside vs. Jenkins, 8 p.m.
AT FORT VALLEY STATE
Villa Rica vs. Buford, 2 p.m.
Harris County vs. Flowery Branch, 6 p.m.
Hiram vs. Miller Grove, 4 p.m.
Warner Robins vs. Clarke Central, 8 p.m.
AT UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA
Northview vs. Lovejoy, 2 p.m.
Douglas County vs. Harrison, 6 p.m.
Heritage vs. Gainesville, 4 p.m.
Langston Hughes vs. Jonesboro, 8 p.m.
AT BUFORD CITY ARENA
McEachren vs. Newton, 2 p.m.
North Forsyth vs. Westlake, 6 p.m.
Norcross vs. Newton, 4 p.m.
Meadowcreek vs. Grayson, 8 p.m.
Streaming game coverage: Available on NFHSNetwork.com/GHSA
Online advance tickets info: www.gofan.co