Snipes' Wildcats ease to win
by Zac Diodati
MDJ Sports Correspondent
March 03, 2011 12:00 AM | 1769 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Archer’s Tramique Anderson (34) can’t get out of the way as Wheeler’s Nigel Snipes (21) slams the ball in Wednesday’s second-round game of the Class AAAAA state tournament.
<br>Staff photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Archer’s Tramique Anderson (34) can’t get out of the way as Wheeler’s Nigel Snipes (21) slams the ball in Wednesday’s second-round game of the Class AAAAA state tournament.
Staff photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
MARIETTA - Every time Wheeler takes the stage, a different player seems to take on the starring role.

In Wednesday's second-round matchup with Archer, it was senior forward Nigel Snipes who led the top-seeded Wildcats to a 73-56 victory in the Class AAAAA state tournament.

Snipes finished with a team-high 19 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. Three other Wildcats finished in double figures, including K.K. Simmons with 14 points, and Kharon Butcher, who scored 16 and went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.

"It feels great knowing that anyone can step up and take control of the game," Snipes said of the depth on Wheeler's roster. "I came from another school, so this is my first time playing in the elite eight, so it's really exciting to get to this point."

Snipes and Wheeler teammate Chris Longoria came to east Cobb from Paideia, a Class A program in Atlanta.

The Wildcats (21-6) will take on another No. 1 seed, Norcross (21-9), at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals at the University of West Georgia.

The perennial postseason powers have a long history with each other, including earlier this season when Wheeler beat Norcross 73-68 in the finale of the Nike Explosion Classic.

Archer (14-17), a second-year program from Gwinnett County, was making its first appearance in the state tournament, and while the Tigers looked star-struck in the first half, they were more competitive in the third and fourth quarters.

After leading 13-8 at the end of the first quarter, Wheeler increased its breathing room before halftime by getting eight consecutive points from Simmons. The Wildcats ended up outscoring Archer 18-5 in the second quarter and led 31-13 heading into the intermission.

Archer only converted one of its five foul shots in the first half and did not make a basket from 3-point range.

When Longoria found his first basket of the night with a long 3-pointer in the third quarter, Wheeler got its first 20-point lead of the night at 39-19.

That's when Archer found its offense, though a little too late.

Randall Smith completed a no-look pass to Bryan Hamlet, who finished the play in the paint, for part of his game-high 20 points. Hamlet also connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter, though Wheeler still held a commanding 47-33 lead.

Snipes put the icing on the cake early in the fourth quarter with an impressive string of individual effort.

First, he drove the lane for a basket while being fouled, and converted the ensuing free throw. On the following inbound play, Snipes stole the ball from Archer's Tramique Anderson and threw down an emphatic dunk to the roaring approval of Wheeler's home crowd.

The play gave the Wildcats an insurmountable 55-38 lead.

"This is obviously new territory for us" Archer coach Tim Watkins said. "Tomorrow, I'll probably be excited about the future of our team, but tonight I'll be looking at the mistakes we made early in this game. If we had played the second half like we did the first, we may have gotten a different result."

For Wheeler, a program with high standards, Wednesday's game was just another step on the path to their goal of a state championship.

"It's a good thing that we have so many players that can step up," Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. "I'm proud of the effort they showed (Wednesday). That's a good team we faced."

When asked if this season can already be considered a success, Lipscomb said, "Yes and no."

"I think that we could have played better, but we are in the third round."
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