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Drew, Washington meet on ‘big stage’ in semifinals

Photo by Jerry Jackson
Drew senior Rufus Brown will help lead the fifth-ranked Titans in their first-ever appearance in the state semifinals. The Titans take on unranked Washington of Atlanta with the winner advancing to Saturday’s finals.

Photo by Jerry Jackson Drew senior Rufus Brown will help lead the fifth-ranked Titans in their first-ever appearance in the state semifinals. The Titans take on unranked Washington of Atlanta with the winner advancing to Saturday’s finals.

Drew coach Jarrod Davis and his Washington counterpart William Faulkner have been trying to operate as “business as usual” as the two teams meet in today’s Class AAA semifinals at the Macon Coliseum.

None of the current players on either roster has been to a state semifinal. Last season, Washington lost in the first round of the playoffs after making the postseason for the first time in 16 years. Drew went to the quarterfinals last season, its first on the varsity level.

“I think they are going to be able to handle playing on the big stage,” Faulkner said. “I’ve been telling them about my experiences in the playoffs. We are going about business in our normal routine.”

Davis said he hasn’t been able to sense a nervousness in any of his players this week as they prepared for today’s 5:30 p.m. contest. The Titans, ranked fourth in the state, will leave around 11 a.m. today to make the hour trek to Macon.

“I want them to be in the building before the first game starts,” Davis said. “I want them to get used to the arena.”

The Macon Coliseum will offer an unique experience for the players, because it will be the first time most have played on a court with such a large depth perception around the goals. There is open space on both ends of the basketball court.

Faulkner is hoping that his team’s experience at the Dalton Trade and Convention Center in the quarterfinals round will be an advantage.

“We are going to treat it as if we are playing at home,” Faulkner said.

In such a short time span, Davis said that his players and fans have gotten accustomed to winning. Drew will take a couple of fan buses to the game, and Davis said student excitement has been very tame.

“That could be a good or bad thing,” Davis said. “We have never had a losing season so the students sort of expect success. We have put all that out of focus, and are concentrating on playing basketball.”

Washington has had a proud basketball tradition that hit upon hard times recently. The Bulldogs won the Class AAAA title in 1987, and has had two alumni play in the NBA.

Prior to last season, however, the Bulldogs went 16 years without a state playoff appearance.

In the last two seasons, Drew has compiled a 43-14 record.

“I’m not really concerned about my kids playing on the big stage,” Davis said. “We have played in big games before with a packed gym. This game will boil down to which team settles down first and plays their game. Washington is a good team, so we are expecting a good game.”

Washington vs. Drew

When, where: Today, 5:30 p.m. at the Macon Coliseum.

Records, rankings, seeding: Washington is 20-9, unranked and the No. 3 seed from Region 5-AAA; Drew is 27-4, ranked No. 4 in Class AAA and the top seed from Region 4-AAA.

How they got here: Washington defeated Troup (65-54), LaFayette (68-40) and Allatoona (59-56); Drew defeated Washington County (73-47), Westover (67-55) and Henry County (60-40).

What to look for: Teams are similar as they are both athletic. Neither team relies on just one or two players to carry the scoring load. Drew has won six straight and 16 of its last 17 games.