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March 5, 2014

Rebels to take on Wilkinson for state title today

ASHBURN — Turner County will play in their first championship game since 2008 -09 when the team lost back-to-back in the state finals to Hancock Central and Whitefield Academy. The Rebels have reached the playoffs each year since, only making it to the Final Four in 2011-12 under Coach Tyrone Kelloggs' first year at Turner.

The team has worked to make it back to the championship game this year with a 26-4 record.  All of the teams the Rebels lost to this year made it to at least the Elite Eight in the state playoffs. Turner County is led by two seniors, Nate Martin and Antonio Graddic.  Graddic leads the team in rebounds with 8.1 RPG and points with 13.1 PPG.  Martin averages 11.8 PPG and three assists per game.  The Rebels use a full-court press often.  They are effective with this because Kellogg plays 11-12 guys interchangeably. Turner averages just under 70 points a game this year.

Wilkinson County is averaging just over 76 points a game and has scored over a 100 twice this year against region opponents.  The Warriors are led by eight seniors.  One of those is 6'5" Antonio Whipple, who dominates on  the paint and also has a decent mid-range shot.  There are several Whipples who have had their jerseys retired and hanging from banners at The Palace. Wilkinson has two guards who can shoot from the outside well.

Over the the last eight years, Turner and Wilkinson have met each other five times.  Wilkison has the edge 3-2 over Turner. The first three appearances against the Warriors was in the state playoffs as well.  The Rebels won the middle game to advance to the finals back in March 2008.  The last two meetings have come at The Palace.  Turner won the last meeting back on Dec. 21 2012, the first time Kellogg led his team there.  Wilkinson had won the state title game earlier in March and had their ring ceremony that night.  Turner spoiled the Warriors' ring ceremony that night as Turner won 73-56.  

It should be a great matchup when you look at both teams.  Turner might have the slight edge when you look at common opponents.  Portal beat Wilkinson twice this year and Turner County defeated Portal two out of three times this year.

But this is the playoffs, and Wilkinson is the defending champion seeking yet another title. Wilkinson has won six titles since 1999. Turner County has not seen a basketball championship since 1963. 

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20140726 John Gamble.JPG

John Gamble (right) is joined by John Reid at the Tiftarea YMCA Saturday.

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