By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Turner County stuns Wilkinson County. Taking a page from the old adage that begins, “If a tree falls in the forest …,” the biggest upset of the season took place last week and there was hardly anything said or reported about it. Unranked Turner County (7-0) hammered Class A’s top-ranked team, previously unbeaten Wilkinson County, 73-56, last week AT The Palace at Wilkinson County. The Indians, one of the top programs in the state, were the defending state champs and were riding a 36-game winning streak. They were 65-1 going back to the 2009-10 season.
But upon further examination, the win wasn’t quite as big an upset as it appears on first glance. Turner County has been one of the state’s most consistent programs, compiling a record of 156-36 going back to the 2005-06 season. Over that period the Rebels have played for the state title twice (2008 and 2009), and advanced to the state Final Four (2007), Elite Eight (2011) and the Sweet 16 twice (2006 and 2010). To get to the 2008 finals, Turner County defeated Wilkinson County 52-50 in the semis, after falling to the Indians the previous year, 67-45, also in the semi finals.
Now, back to last week’s game. Wilkinson County head coach Aaron Geter said before the start of the season that even though his team was the pre-season No. 1, that ranking might not last long. The Indians return just two players from last season’s undefeated state champs – senior guards Jerame McCormick and Montel Smith.
Conversely, this could be the year that the Rebels bring a state title back to Ashburn. Along with the win over Wilkinson County, Turner County has defeated Class AAA Crisp County – which handily has defeated Class AAAAA foes Valdosta (68-56) and Colquitt County (56-42) – and Greenville, which advanced to last season’s semi finals before being knocked out by Wilkinson County. Turner County is led by seniors Demarcus Daniels and Zuriel Muhammad, who each scored 16 points in the win over Wilkinson County, along with sophomore guard DJ Bryant, who led all scorers with 23. Daniels, a 6-4 center, has been dominant thus far, averaging 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks per game, including a triple-double performance (19 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks) in a 70-42 win over Worth County, Dec. 10.
Over the holiday break Turner County is competing this week in the Georgia-Florida Shootout at Bainbridge and will face Vidalia (10-1), one of the top teams in Class AA, on New Year’s Eve at Brewton-Parker College. The Rebels will return to region play Jan. 6, when they visit Lanier County (9-2), a threat to advance deep into the post season in Class A.