Photo by Heather Middleton
Before I could get a word out, Miller Grove coach Sharman White layed out the ground rules.
There would be no talk about 'David vs. Goliath' and he wasn't giving me any information on his team. Other than those two topics, White said he would be more than happy to talk to me.
White was probably expecting a call from me, and recognized my number. He knew in my new gig that Jonesboro was one of the teams that I covered. White and I have known each other for many years, and we have mutual friends.
I first met him when he was a second-year head coach leading Carver High of Atlanta into the Final Four.
White knows that newspaper reporters are always looking for a story.
But he wasn't giving one on this day.
"Everybody wants to write the story for us," he said. "We can't afford to listen to any of that talk - good or bad."
The Wolverines are the two-time defending Class AAAA champions.
They play in a region that has produced the last seven state champions. White knows something about good basketball. He also knows a little about Jonesboro, his team's opponent in today's state semifinals.
The two schools played in the same region in 2006, Miller Grove's first season on the varsity level. They split their two games that year, and White has been impressed by his coaching counterpart Dan Maehlman.
"We have had some good battles during that season and in the summer," White said. "We follow each other. This isn't a David verus Goliath matchup. They are a legit team and this will be a great game."
Jonesboro senior James White, no relation, has heard it from his classmates this week in the hallways. They realize that taking on Miller Grove is a tall order, even for the 6-foot-8 White.
Moments after Jonesboro defeated Hardaway in Fort Valley last week to earn a trip to the Final Four, I asked White about the match up with nationally-ranked Miller Grove.
"We will take it as another game," he said inside the Cardinals' locker room.
But this isn't just another game, against just any opponent.
It is the Final Four against perhaps the best team the fifth-ranked Cardinals have played all season.
Some would probably say Jonesboro has nothing to lose and the pressure is all on Miller Grove, since they entered the season as a favorite to repeat.
White sees it a lot different.
"Everybody is feeling the pressure," White said. "Nobody wants to go home at this point in the season."
At least not empty-handed.
Derrick Mahone covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.