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Drew defeats Washington for chance to play for AAA title

Drew forward Quadedius Tyler soaks in the Titans' 75-61 victory over Washington of Atlanta in the Class AAA semifinals Friday night. Drew became the first Clayton County boys basketball team to reach the finals since Jonesboro in 2003.

Drew forward Quadedius Tyler soaks in the Titans' 75-61 victory over Washington of Atlanta in the Class AAA semifinals Friday night. Drew became the first Clayton County boys basketball team to reach the finals since Jonesboro in 2003.

MACON — Drew didn't look the part of a team making its first-ever state semifinals appearance.

If the fourth-ranked Titans had any stage fright playing at the Macon Coliseum, they certainly didn't show it Friday in the Class AAA semifinals.

"We were nervous, but basketball is basketball," said Drew senior guard Rufus Brown after the team's 75-61 victory over Atlanta's Washington High to earn a spot in Saturday's finals against the winner of the Eagle's Landing-Columbia game.

A third-year school, Drew is in its second hyear of playing a varsity schedule. Last season, the Titans lost in the quarterfinals.

"This is real special for us," Titans senior guard Eloka Olisa said. "After losing in the Elite Eight, we make a commitment to take it to the next step this season."

And the Titans did.

For they won the Region 4-AAA tournament, and then cruised threw the first three rounds of the state tournament.

Washington, making its first semifinals since winning it all in 1987, seemed rattled at first before it settled down to make a game of it. The score was tied at the end of the first quarter at 23-23.

The Titans used a pair of second-half runs to take control of the game.

"We weren't phyiscally strong enough to handle their pressure," Washington coach William Faulkner said. "They manhandled us in the end.Our pressure didn't bother them."

Derrick Frye had 17 points to lead four other Drew players in double figures. Lafie Lupoe came off the bench to score 15 points while Brown added 13 and Olisa had 12 points. Devonte Cacock had 10 points for the Titans.

"This program took another step," Drew coach Jarrod Davis said. "These kids worked extremely hard to get to this point."

Up by 10 points with six minutes remaining, Drew allowed the Bulldogs to get back into the contest.

After Washington took a 53-52 lead, its first of the game, the Titans went on an 8-0 run to take control for good. During that run, Lupoe scored six of the team's points.

"We sort of let our emotions get in the way," Davis said. "I had to call a timeout to settle them down. I wanted to get the ball in the right person's hand. We had a good start to the game, and they did some things we knew they would do. I'm proud of the way the guys did the things to make us successful."

Drew becomes the first Clayton County boys team to play for a state title since 2003 when Jonesboro lost to Wheeler in the Class AAAAA finals. The county hasn't had a championship since North Clayton won the 1993 title.

"Our whole focus this year was to get better, and get that ring," Brown said.

And now, the team is 32 minutes away from accomplishing that goal.