ALBANY — Is it Cromer & Miller, or is it Miller & Cromer?
Maybe it’s Crom-iller, or Mill-omer?
It doesn’t really matter at Westover, where the Patriots are just happy to have the best 1-2 guard punch in Southwest Georgia.
That’s what T.J. Cromer and Kel Miller mean to Westover. Both are Herald Super 6ers. Both drop 3’s from above and both do a little of everything for Westover.
“They’re the glue. They’re the seniors,’’ said Westover coach Dallis Smith after watching Miller and Cromer lead Westover to an 84-59 blowout against North Clayton in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs Wednesday night. “They’re the leaders of the team. We’ll go as far as they can get the others to go with them.’’
No one knows just how far this Westover team can go, but they are off and running with a romp in the first round, and will be at home Saturday night to play the Westside Macon-Glenn Hills winner in the Sweet 16.
The Patriots (22-5)) made a statement in their opening round game — a game Smith was worried about because Westover was coming off an emotional, 67-65, win against city rival Monroe in the Region 1-A title game on Friday. Monroe had beaten Westover three times before the Patriots claimed the region and the top seed entering the playoffs.
“I was worried we might have a letdown after winning the region on Friday,’’ Smith said. “I was real proud of them and their effort. I wanted to come out with a lot of energy, and I was happy the way we hit the floor running.’’
Cromer and Miller combined to score 33 points in the first half, outscoring North Clayton (Westover led 42-30 at halftime) and both sat down after Westover built a 67-40 lead after three quarters.
Cromer, who scored 60 points last week in the semifinal and final games of the region tournament, finished with 21 points and led Westover in assists (five) and rebounds (nine). He had six rebounds in the first quarter alone and made his best assist of the night on play Cromer and Miller have been pulling off all year — an alley-oop dunk off the backboard. This one came 2:00 left in the half and Miller’s slam gave Westover a 37-25 lead. Miller led the way with 23 points, and also six rebounds as the two guards combined for 44 points and 15 boards.
“It’s good to see them doing all the little things, the assists and rebounds and things that don’t show up in the (statistics),’’ Smith said. “Those are the things we need to do in the playoffs.’’
Westover did just about everything right, and completely dominated the glass. North Clayton didn’t get an offensive rebound in the first quarter, and after three quarters Westover held a 34-14 edge in rebounds. Backups played the fourth quarter.
North Clayton was led by seniors Devon Lewis (15 points ) and Stafan Bradley (11 points), and the Eagles, who shot just 35 percent for the game, made a push in the second quarter, shooting 50 percent (9-of-18) as the two teams combined to score 50 points in the eight minutes. Cromer and MIller combined to score 21 points as Westover outscored North Clayton 27-23 in the second.
It was a rude homecoming for North Clayton coach Martisse Troup, who graduated from Monroe in 1997. His mother still lives in Albany and Troup usually brings his team to the U Save It Tournament at the Christmas break.
He took his team to the Final Four last year, and came back with a young group this year. His Eagles (14-15) were the No. 4 seed out of Region 4-AAAA that includes powerhouses Eagles Landing and Jonesboro.
“We’re a young team and my best defensive player (Tracy Hector) broke his wrist last week in the Jonesboro game,’’ Troup said. “But my hat’s off to Westover and coach Smith. He does a great job.
“They’re up there with Jonesboro,’’ he said of Westover. “They have quick, athletic guards. If they get to the Elite 8 I think it would be a good matchup with them against Eagles Landing.’’
North Clayton was led by seniors Devon Lewis (15 points ) and Bradley (11 points).
The Westover kids knew they were facing a No. 4 seed, and we determined not to look ahead.
“We weren’t taking them for granted. We were ready. We couldn’t be the only team in Albany to lose,’’ said Cromer, referring to Monroe’s opining round win on Tuesday. “We wanted to get over the trap game. It was good to win this game (in a rout) because it gives us confidence going to the next game.’’
Westover also got big games from C.J. Davis, who scored 13 points and had seven rebounds, and Andre Kennedy, who came off the bench to score 10 points and grab four rebounds.