To be the best, you have to beat the best.

That is the challenge for the Thomasville Bulldogs today. In order to win the state title, the Thomasville basketball team has to first down the No. 1 team in the state, East Hall.

The Vikings are the defending state champions and are 28-2 this season. East Hall is also chasing its fourth state title in six years.

To earn the right to the honor of best team in Class AA, the Bulldogs will have to pry it straight from the hands of the Vikings, not an easy task as evidenced by East Hall’s dominance in the playoffs.

One way or the other, Thomasville will learn how good of a team it really is.

During their run to the state semifinal, the Bulldogs enjoyed blowout wins (a 92-55 first round rout of Irwin County following three Region 1-AA tournament wins by an average of 33 points) and a pair of tight encounters against Lamar County and Manchester.

But, none of those teams have the firepower of East Hall.

The Bulldogs possess a handful of capable scorers. However, their playoff success has come on the heels of improved defensive play.

Thomasville switched to its starting lineup to focus on defense prior to the start of the region tournament and after losing four of its final five regular season games.

That improved defensive performance was on display against Lamar County’s Mikyle McGee last week. After McGee scored 29 through three quarters, Thomasville shut him down in the fourth.

However, in facing the Vikings, the Bulldogs will be challenged with the task of shutting down not one, but two lethal scorers.

Senior guard Frank Davis leads the Vikings with an average of 28 points per game. Davis, who has signed with Tennessee Tech, provides the outside dimension to East Hall’s balanced attack.

The inside portion is provided by 6-foot-5 junior Walter Hill. Hill averages 20 points and adds an athletic mismatch for most opponents.

Thomasville, though, can counter with a pair of athletes to match up with Hill in sophomore Dunnell Webb and junior Jamar Moore. At 6-5, Moore provides fits for opponents, too.

The Thomas County Central transfer can play any position on the floor, giving Thomasville an edge no matter where he plays — either by making a big man play out on the perimeter or by taking a smaller defender down low.

The presence of Moore and fellow junior Ladarius Hall gives Thomasville the weapons to compete in a shootout with the Vikings.

However, the Bulldogs didn’t take off until the increased focus on defense. That is what Thomasville must produce to continue its season until Saturday and in the process gain the opportunity to earn the title of the best team in Class AA.

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