Demons face battle-toughened foe in finals
Head coach Jamal Garman and the Warner Robins Demons have had a pretty successful over the last four years, with a combined record of 100-14 and a state championship game appearance in 2014.
But Garman strives for more and he knows exactly where he needs to look to see where he wants to be.
“It really is hard to match the history over Miller Grove,” Garman said about the team his will meet in the GHSA 5A state championship Thursday night at the Macon Coliseum. “Miller Grove is definitely where we want to be as a basketball program.”
Miller Grove’s track record is fairly amazing as they are playing for a state championship game for the eighth time in the last 12 years. This year the Wolverines are 22-7 and will be looking to beat Warner Robins in the championship game for the second time in the last five years. When they played in 2014, Miller Grove beat the Demons 70-43.
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“We had a very good basketball team in 2014 but we were like the country boys going into the big city looking at those big lights, and although we had a great team that year, we were not quite ready for it,” Garman said. “It was not only overwhelming for me as a coach but it was overwhelming for my team. But now we have played the top teams in the state all year and we know we can handle a game like this. It’s like we have been living in New York and we have grown up and these 10 seniors on the team are more than ready. I mean they have been working towards this for the last three years and even longer. The atmosphere and the big lights and playing for a state championship is something we are ready for at this point.”
The game itself seems to be a classic match-up with Miller Grove being a great defensive team and Warner Robins having an explosive offense. Miller Grove has allowed at least 70 points in a game only three times all year and gives up only 53 points per game. Meanwhile Warner Robins, led by Nelson Phillips and Jacolbey Owens, has scored over 70 points in 24 of their 30 games and gone over 80 points 16 times.
Miller Grove is a great defensive team and they are comfortable playing man-to-man or zone,” Garman said. “They want you to run, but they have the big guys to slow us down. On paper it’s a great battle of two different teams but I think the team that can score the basketball and maintain that offensive flow will win the game.”
Warner Robins may have an advantage of depth. The Demons usually play all 13 players on the roster while Miller Grove might play eight players. “We usually play a lot of guys and we will go deep into the bench on Thursday because those bench guys all offer something to this team,” Garman said. “Trevon Williams is probably our eighth or ninth guy and he came in and scored 13 points in the semifinal game. We count on all those guys to give us a lift when they get in the game.”
Miller Grove has lost seven games this season while Warner Robins is 27-3 with 13 straight wins, but Garman insists records don’t matter at this time of year. “We are playing for a state championship and we have the utmost respect for Miller Grove because they deserve that respect, but we don’t fear anyone,” Garman said. They are coming to Macon to win a state championship just like we are.”