Photo by Heather Middleton
There's something special happening at Drew.
The two-year-old Clayton County High School in Riverdale is turning heads thanks to its boys basketball team that's just one victory away from moving on to the Class AAA Final Four.
That could happen Saturday night when Drew again steps back on the court against Butler in an 8:30 p.m. tip off at Columbus State.
Drew's magical season is unfolding all without a senior on the team, and with good reason, there are no upperclassman at Drew High School.
Juniors and sophomores are taking this team into battle each and every night with a raw determination usually reserved for players who have gone to the state tournament before.
Charismatic coach Jarrod Davis has worked hard to put his high school basketball team into this position much earlier then most people expected.
He's animated on the sidelines, and his simple message is a combination of X's and O's, as well as a John Wooden-style philosophy that simply states, look at your teammates as family, and never quit working hard no matter the outcome.
Toss in a tough brand of defense, smart shot selection and a knack for sinking free throws in pressure situations and the formula is in place for success.
Even Davis wasn't expecting this type of run.
"I don't really know what to say," Davis said after the team's most recent win. "We are just a rag-tag team that's working hard and playing good basketball right now."
Whatever the reason, the team few had heard about just a few weeks ago is writing a Hollywood-type script.
Drew has quietly flown under the radar in a very tough league. Region 4-AAA is full of talent and is only going to be better next year with the likes of Eagle's Landing and Henry County ready to make another run.
Drew will obviously be there too.
Second-year programs aren't supposed to have a lot of success. It's normally a time to get experience and look toward the future, not worry about wins and losses.
But this team seems different. It's become a squad on a mission, winning games when they were often David going up against Goliath.
Davis' team has jumped on board, buying into their coach's blueprint for success with full-throtle enthusiasm.
"Our motto is one team and one family," said junior Cory Graves. "We are just proud to make it this far. Hopefully, we can make it all the way."
The Drew basketball team has grown up the past couple of weeks, and it started with a couple of huge victories, starting with a 65-55 win over Spalding to put the team in the Class AAA state tournament for the first time ever.
That should have been satisfying enough for this collection of young basketball players, but the storyline didn't end there.
Throw in a 70-68 overtime win against Henry County, and here was little Drew about to play in its biggest game ever, the Region 4-AAA finals against a very talented Eagle's Landing team.
Drew lost that game, but it didn't dampen its spirits or determination. Davis' young squad held its head high and marched into the first round of the state tournament beating Baldwin. Then on Wednesday, the magic continued as Drew got past Westside-Augusta.
Sure, it would be easy to argue that home-court advantage was on Drew's side.
The Region 4-AAA tournament was played on its own court, as were the first two state tournament games.
Home or away, there's one thing that can't be discounted, and it boils down to this: Drew is a talented basketball team, and talented basketball teams find a way to win.
Yes, the home-court advantage ends Saturday for Drew, as it play Butler at a neutral venue. But don't call what they have accomplished pure luck. It goes beyond that.
This squad is known as the Titans, definition a group of powerful deities from Greek mythology. Pretty appropriate for a basketball team that doesn't believe it can lose.
The final chapter to this story is not written, but like an engrossing novel, it's an exciting page turner, where the best could still be yet to come.
(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Da)