Clinging to a two-point lead late in the third quarter, the top-ranked Eagles went on a 9-0 run while Mitchell took a rest on the bench, and they held on in the fourth behind solid free-throw shooting to claim a 65-60 non-region win Saturday at Doug Lipscomb Gymnasium.
Sixth-ranked Wheeler (10-8) trailed 29-20 at halftime, but it opened the third period on a 14-7 run and trailed 36-34 with 2:57 left in the frame. Mitchell, who finished with 30 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and added 12 rebounds, scored six during the run, while Kejuan Johnson, who also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards, played a role in the spurt with six points on two 3-pointers.
However, Mitchell was given a rest at the 2:48 mark of the third, and Milton (18-4) took advantage in his absence. Jalyn Patterson, who made four 3-pointers and finished with 20 points, scored on a jumper 10 seconds later to ignite the 9-0 run. Tevin Glass connected on a layup and two free throws during the spurt, while Patterson added another field goal.
Mitchell re-entered the game with 1:52 remaining in the third, but the Eagles maintained an 11-point advantage entering the fourth quarter, and connected on 6-of-6 free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
“We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “When we make a run like we made to start the third, when a turnover takes place, it doesn’t help us. We have to take care of the basketball and we have to execute.
“But (Milton) showed why they’re No. 1. We made our runs, and they made theirs. They maintained the lead. We were fighting with them and tried to make them play a different type of basketball than they’re used to. They’re a very good team, they’re well-coached and they played up to their expectations. Our kids played with a lot of heart. We didn’t quit, but we have to cut down on mistakes.”
Wheeler led 10-9 at the end of the first period, but trailed 17-15 midway through the second. Evan Nolte’s 3-pointer ignited a 9-0 run for the Eagles, who took a 26-15 margin with 2:35 left until halftime and led by nine at halftime when Johnson scored on a putback with 25 seconds remaining.
Milton held a 57-47 advantage with 3:20 left in the fourth, but two free throws each from Austin Smoak and Mitchell, as well as a putback from Elijah Staley, brought Wheeler to within 57-53 with 1:34 left in the contest.
Glass, who scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half and collected 12 rebounds, made a putback to build the margin up to six. He also went 4-of-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to aid in Milton’s win.
“I thought both teams played hard and played well,” said Milton coach David Boyd, whose team is on a 14-game winning streak. “I thought Chuck Mitchell and Tevin Glass both had great games, and I think it was a game that came down to us making a few more free throws and getting the ball down inside a little better in the fourth quarter.
“It certainly helped having Mitchell out of the game (in the third period), because he’s just so tough in there. But you have to give him a blow every now and then, so we were fortunate to have gotten a few buckets in there and we were able to hold on. This is a tough place to play, so we’re proud to walk out of here with a victory, but it was certainly hard-earned.”
Charles Mann contributed eight points and six assists for Milton, while Wheeler’s Staley scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and added four rebounds.