Wheeler Bounced Out at Home
North Gwinnett ended the Wildcats' season in the second round of the state tournament Wednesday.
Wheeler's up-and-down season ended prematurely on Wednesday in a manner that typified some of the the Wildcats' misfortune.
Wheeler extended its second round Class AAAAA state tournament game to overtime, but North Gwinnett freshman Kam Calhoun scored his only basket of the game on a layup with 4.7 seconds to play.
That was just enough for the visitors to claim a 70-68 win at the Doug Lipscomb Gym and advance to the quarterfinals this weekend.
Wheeler forced the additional session on free throws by Jacob Obande, who had been fouled by Calhoun. But the Wildcats couldn't piece enough together to benefit from home court advantage.
After the game, Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb told The Marietta Daily Journal he was proud of how his team battled.
But like much of the game, this was a season that the Wildcats (17-11) could never seem to harness. They lost many of their games to superior out-of-state competition and Atlanta-area powerhouses Shiloh and Milton.
That schedule did prepare them for the rigors of a very difficult Region 5-AAAAA slate.
When starters Elijah Staley and Kejuan Johnson were suspended two games for fighting during the region tourney, Wheeler managed to win it anyway, holding off East Cobb rivals Walton and Lassiter.
But even with Staley and Johnson back in the lineup, the Wildcats had to work to put away Northview in the first round of the state tournament on Saturday. They did well to contain North Gwinnett's Georgia Tech-bound star Chris Bolden in the second half.
Like so much of the season, it just wasn't enough.
Wheeler is a young team. Staley, a 6-foot-7 sophomore and a Harrison transfer, is one of the more promising prospects in the Atlanta area. Johnson, a 6-foot-5 swing guard/small forward, was a freshman.
Also coming back next year for his senior season will be guard Austin Smoak.
The Wildcats will miss Obande, a senior guard, and Charles Mitchell, a 6-foot-8 pivot who is still generating serious attention from major college recruiters.
Lipscomb's sons, David and Doug, also were seniors.
Had Wheeler won, its season likely would have not gone much further. North Gwinnett's opponent in Saturday's quarterfinals in Carrollton is top-ranked Milton, which destroyed Shiloh on Wednesday.