Upstart Hawks withstand Wildcats for first finals berth
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
March 03, 2013 01:18 AM | 6012 views | 9 9 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
His teammates on the bench watching with anticipation, Hillgrove’s B.J. Brown shoots a 3-pointer from the sideline in Saturday’s Class AAAAAA state semifinal at Georgia Tech. 
<BR>Staff photo by Todd Hull
His teammates on the bench watching with anticipation, Hillgrove’s B.J. Brown shoots a 3-pointer from the sideline in Saturday’s Class AAAAAA state semifinal at Georgia Tech.
Staff photo by Todd Hull
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ATLANTA — Jerron Love’s jumper from just right of the foul line missed the mark, giving Hillgrove a 56-54 victory over Wheeler in a semifinal game of the Class AAAAAA state tournament Saturday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.

Wheeler had an opportunity to tie the game, but Love made only one of two free throws with 9.3 seconds on the clock, leaving Hillgrove with a 55-54 advantage.

Keith Ray, who finished with eight points, made the second of his two free throws to put the Hawks up by two, and Love’s shot hit the front of the rim. That sent Hillgrove into celebration and into the state championship game for the first time in the program’s history.

“We just needed Keith to make one of his two free throws, and we just didn’t want to give up a 3 at the end because, if they get that, they win,” the Hawks’ Kyle Castlin said. “We just had to dig in and play our best defense on that possession. Luckily, (Love) missed the shot.

“Wheeler’s a great team, and they played a great game. It was meant for us to win, I guess. We all believe in each other, and God just has something special planned for us.”

The Hawks (28-4) will face Norcross in next Saturday’s Class AAAAAA final at the Macon Centreplex. The Blue Devils prevented an all-Region 4AAAAAA championship from taking place by beating North Cobb in the other semifinal.

Castlin paced Hillgrove with 20 points, including 10 in the third period. He also had eight rebounds, two assists and four steals.

“This feels so good,” Castlin said. “The boys have never played for a state championship at Hillgrove. We were the first team to make it to the final four, and now we’re the first to play for a championship. I’m just really excited.”

B.J. Brown scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and added seven rebounds and three assists. John Franklin finished with seven points, seven boards and two assists.

Aside from a few runs from both teams, the game was close throughout, with Hillgrove leading 11-10 at the end for the first period and 22-20 at halftime. Wheeler (21-9) tied the contest at 39-all entering the fourth quarter.

The Hawks scored nine straight points during an 11-2 run at the start of the second quarter, for a 22-12 lead. Two of Castlin’s three 3-pointers, coupled with a 3-pointer from Shamari Southwell, contributed to the run.

Field goals from Jaylen Brown and Love, an intentional-foul call on Hillgrove and a charging call helped Wheeler make four of six free throws down the stretch, resulting in the halftime score.

Wheeler retook the lead after Austin Smoak made two free throws for a 30-27 margin with 4:42 left in the third.

But Castlin went on the offensive with Hillgrove trailing 37-32, scoring five straight points to knot the score with 1:23 remaining in the period.

Hillgrove opened the fourth on an 8-0 run, with B.J. Brown scoring seven points in 2½ minutes, but a dunk from Daniel Giddens, back-to-back steals from Tim Sanders and a charging call against the Hawks pulled Wheeler to within 49-48 with 3:23 left to play.

Ray’s jumper at the 2:12 mark put Hillgrove ahead 53-50, and Castlin sank two free throws 21 seconds later for a 55-50 advantage.

Avery Patterson’s 3-pointer left Wheeler trailing 55-53 with a minute remaining. The defense picked up at both ends of the court late in the contest as both teams had trouble scoring until the final 10 seconds.

“We’re here because we put this team in God’s hands,” Hillgrove coach Ed Morris said after the game, overwhelmed by emotion. “I’m so happy for our school and our community. You can’t say enough about this group of kids.

“Nobody gave us a chance. With all the social networking, our kids came in motivated. Wheeler’s been here before, and with their tradition, we knew it was going to be tough. But I can’t say enough about how our kids played.”

Hillgrove made eight 3-pointers and shot 10-of-18 from the free-throw line, while Wheeler connected on three 3s and was 11-of-22 from the line.

“We were fortunate to make just one free throw there at the end to make it a two-point game,” Morris said. “Fortunately, (Love) didn’t make (his shot) and we got the win. It’s an awesome feeling. This is what you dream of as a coach — a chance to play in a state championship — and God made that dream come true.”

Smoak finished with 11 points and three assists for Wheeler, while Elijah Staley had 13 points, four boards and two steals. Giddens and Jaylen Brown each added eight points, with Patterson totaling seven.

“Give all the credit to Hillgrove,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “They played a good game. They kept it low-scoring and played good defense. I take the blame for this loss. The plan was to drive to the basket for that last shot, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Comments
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anonymous
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May 06, 2013
Great to read about Austin. Here's a pretty interesting interview he did awhile back http://ballersbridge.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/bridging-the-gap-series-with-austin-smoak
whatareyouthinking
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March 08, 2013
Why is prom even a question when we're talking state championship? What do you think a kid wants...."Remember prom night?" or "Remember when we won state? No? Let me show you the ring!" And its not like a prom can be reschueduled at the last minute. Poor planning from the start in selecting a date? Yes. But it is what it is.
Hawks Fever
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March 04, 2013
Way to go Hawks!! It's a shame the school can't postpone the prom for this Saturday so the seniors on the team and the cheerleaders will be able to partake in it. Something should be done to allow the date to be moved. With the prom taking place the same time Saturday night as the championship game I'm sure the student section will be empty and some players will miss out on their last prom. Come on HHS Administrators...pull together a plan!!
west cobber
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March 05, 2013
That is certainly unfortunate about the conflict but a lot of planning and logistics go into an event like the prom- kind of tough to just move things a week before when you've already got Fernbank or the Fox Theater reserved and I doubt any other dates are available for such venues.

My question is- why in the world are some of these schools having prom so early in the year? It's not even officially spring on the calendar for two more weeks.
HHS Parent
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March 05, 2013
I can't understand why the prom is schedule so early in the year. Just doesn't make sense.
Hawks Fans
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March 04, 2013
The Hillgrove basketball team is made up of an amazing group of young men. They play unselfish basketball and none of these boys have been recruited outside the area like Wheeler and other programs do. It has been amazing to watch them grow thru out the season! These kids deserve all the credit for their hard work and commitment...
Hawks Hoops Fan
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March 03, 2013
Congrats to the Hawks. This has been a really fun group to watch all year long. Extremely UNSELFISH group of kids. Very much refreshing to watch in this AAU era of one on one basketball. This group enjoys taking charges, playing defense, setting screens, making the extra pass. It just goes to show what a group of kids can do when they buy into the concept of TEAM, work hard, and execute a sound game plan that an excellent coaching staff puts together on a daily basis. It shows that you do not have to recruit a whole new group of kids each year to compete at a HIGH LEVEL like some of the GOLIATHS have done for many years. The "GROVE" has taken one GOLIATH down, one GOLIATH to go. GO HAWKS!!!
wheelerstaff
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March 03, 2013
Why did they take Smoak out of the game with .35 secs left...He is the most experienced player they have and without his guidance, the Widlcats didn't know what to do...it's all hindsight now but hopefully the Coaches will clearly see after the smoke clears that he was the "key" to the Wildcats success this year. Granted the other kids in rotation definitely gave 100% but without the leadership of Smoak, the team was lost on many occassions throughout the year. I know they have several players ramked and the "hype" is circling around them but Smoak has never been given much credit and I would just like to say GOOD JOB kid... I saw you for the last 2 years with Wheeler and you deserve more credit than what you have been given...
Hawks Hoops Fan
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March 03, 2013
Congrats Hawks. This has been a fun group to watch all season. It is a very unselfish group of kids. They play together as a team and execute the game plan that Coach Morris and his staff put together. Goes to show you that you do not have to RECRUIT like other programs have done historically or have AAU teams feed your program with new players to be successful. This is for the most part a home grown group of kids. Great group of young men and awesome coaching staff. Hopefully the run can continue and they can knock off another Goliath next Saturday in Macon.
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