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Wheeler Earns GHSA 7A Title Game Berth With Win Over Grayson

Wheeler's Damion Mitchell (#2) surveys the Grayson defense in the GHSA 7A semifinal matchup

On Saturday, the Georgia High School Association basketball state championship tournament continued with semifinals action as the Wheeler Wildcats closed out the night in the Class 7A boys’ bracket taking on the Grayson Rams. With the Rams coming in as one of the top defensive teams in Georgia, they knew they would have to pick their poison as they faced the Wildcats led by Naismith Player of the Year in Isaiah Collier and senior 6-foot-9 forward Arrinten Page.

Opting to focus more on Page, who would finish with 19 points, the Rams limited the USC signee’s offensive impact in the first half as he would be held to seven points through the first two quarters of play. And while the Wildcats would get 13 first half points from Collier, Grayson’s game plan appeared to be playing in their favor as the first half would come to an end with the game tied 27-27 all. As the third quarter got underway, the Rams looked to keep momentum in their favor as they opened up the period on an 8-0 run sparked by back to back baskets from Anthony Alston after he scored the first five points of the quarter.

However, the Wildcats would turn up their defensive intensity, forcing several Rams’ turnovers and would close out the quarter on a 20-10 run to take a 47-45 lead by the end of the period. Yet, Grayson would not fold as they would regain the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to an Amir Taylor rebound and put back in which he also drew a foul and would connect on the free throw to complete the three point play as the Rams took a 50-49 lead. Unfortunately thought for Grayson, an injury to guard CJ Hyland would result in him being out for the remainder of the game, and the Wildcats saw their opportunity to take advantage of the wounded Rams as they would pull away to pick up the 67-55 win.

“I think what we saw was a lot of nerves,” Grayson assistant coach, Darnell Shepherd, who was filling in for head coach, Larry Thompson, said of the Wildcats play throughout the first three quarters of play, noting that many of the players where “in this position for the first time,” and that may have led to the Wildcats making some mistakes that they normally would not make, “particularly, the first three quarters,” Shepherd added. The Wheeler assistant coach would also praise the Wildcats’ players for how well they battled by “staying together and not falling apart through a little adversity throughout those first three quarters,” Shepherd said.

Wheeler will now face a team they are very familiar with in the Cherokee Warriors, a region opponent who they defeated twice during the regular season and a third tme in the GHSA 7A Region 5 tournament championship game. The two teams will battle for the 7A title on Saturday.


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