Clifford Kerbo didn’t picture this, but he’ll take it.
For being completely new to Region 4-AA, over from 3-AA, Bleckley County’s boys basketball coach is somewhat surprised his team’s on a 16-game winning streak, 10-0 in region, ranked No. 4, and on the cusp of winning the regular-season region title by beating No. 10 Taylor County on the road tonight at 7:30.
Every region opponent has been a stranger, but the Royals have diagnosed each on the fly.
“The run has been nice, but you do kind of have to pinch yourself,” Kerbo said. “We have to keep looking at how we’re playing, how we’ve won and what we still have to do to get better. There’s no perfect team.”
Beating Taylor (14-6, 8-2) not only would secure the regular-season region crown for the Royals (19-2, 10-0). It also will guarantee them a third straight trip to the state playoffs with a berth in the region tournament semifinals at home in Cochran, where nobody can recall a region tournament ever being.
“There’s a lot riding on this game,” Kerbo said. “(Hosting the region tournament) would be huge for our community. With the 200 or 300 people we have here, we’ll party.”
Kerbo has led the Royals (19-2, 10-0) to state five times in seven previous seasons, but never to a region tournament championship. He said being ranked is nice, but a perfect region record is the greater focus, and that still requires Lamar County Friday and Monticello and Northeast Macon in two more region games next week.
“All rankings do is put a target on your back,” he said. “I don’t want my guys thinking a ranking means all they have to do is just show up. It’s nice to be ranked, but if you don’t make the playoffs, that’s no good.”
The Royals enter tonight’s game red hot, most recently with region wins over Crawford County 88-61 and Macon County 55-53 in overtime. Rydealous Taylor’s and DaMario Beck’s 21 contributed to Bleckley’s highest scoring first quarter this season, 34 points. The Royals showed they can win the close ones by outlasting Macon County in overtime.
Bleckley’s DaMario Beck enters tonight’s game averaging 27 points. He scored 44 against Northeast Macon and 39 versus Cedar Shoals. Remarkably, he has a double-double in 17 of 21 games.
Rydealous Taylor follows with 18 points and six rebounds on a team loaded with eight seniors that lost only two starters from last season.
All considered, Kerbo likes his guys’ chances in a run toward Bleckley’s best-ever state semifinal appearance in 1985. This could be a break-through year, but Kerbo cautions against looking too far ahead.
“You’re only as good as your last game,” he said.