Wheeler comes out on the winning end of roller-coaster region championship
by Adam Carrington
acarrington@mdjonline.com
February 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 3019 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A crestfallen Nick Wells drops to his knees as Wheeler’s celebration begins Tuesday night. The east Cobb archrivals met in another down-to-the-wire battle, this time for the Region 5AAAAAA championship, and Wheeler was the one to prevail despite squandering a fourth-quarter lead to allow overtime.
<BR>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
A crestfallen Nick Wells drops to his knees as Wheeler’s celebration begins Tuesday night. The east Cobb archrivals met in another down-to-the-wire battle, this time for the Region 5AAAAAA championship, and Wheeler was the one to prevail despite squandering a fourth-quarter lead to allow overtime.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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WOODSTOCK — Makhai Eastmond stole a Walton pass and had about 3 seconds to take it down court and give Wheeler the game-winning points in Tuesday’s Region 5AAAAAA championship game.

Eastmond dished the ball off to Jaylen Brown, who then fed it to Avery Patterson. That gave Patterson the opportunity to make the game-winning layup just as the buzzer sounded to end the first overtime period.

That executed play handed Wheeler a 78-76 victory and region title, and it capped off just the latest chapter of the longstanding east Cobb rivalry.

“It’s always been an intense rivalry between us,” Patterson said of Walton. “I had to get that bucket and get that win. It was good to finish the way we did.”

Elijah Staley led Wheeler (23-5) with 25 points. Patterson’s game-winner put him at 19 points for the night, and Brown was also in double figures at 17.

The region title was the Wildcats’ fourth in a row.

Wheeler was expecting to finish much more comfortably. The Wildcats had a nice 18-point cushion late in the third quarter when Trevin Steede completed a three-point play to put his team ahead 55-37.

Elijah Weems and his Walton teammates had different ideas in the fourth quarter.

Weems finished with 39 points for Walton (24-4) and was the architect of a fourth-quarter rally that allowed the Raiders to outscore the Wildcats 20-11 in the final period to tie it at 68-all by the end of regulation.

Walton’s rally actually began late in the third quarter, when Weems hit a 3 from the top of the key. The Raiders went on to end the third period on a 8-0 run behind a second-chance shot and a layup by Weems, and four free throws by Chad Clay.

With Wheeler holding a nine-point lead at the start of the fourth, Walton continued fighting back.

Another 3 by Weems cut the lead to six, and Walton later forced a turnover that ended with a Maurice Gibson layup to cut it to six. More Wheeler turnovers turned into more Walton points, with Jay Bowyer hitting a 3 to make it 62-60 with 4:39 left on the clock.

Wheeler continued clinging to the lead until Weems tied it on a pair of free throws with 3:09 left.

Wheeler had a chance to win during the final minute of regulation when Eastmond hit two free throws to put the Wildcats in front 68-65, but Weems was fouled beyond the arc, and he hit all three of his free throws to tie it and send the game into overtime.

The lead changed five times during overtime, until Staley hit two free throws to stretch it to 76-73. Walton answered back with a layup and a free throw by Bowyer.

Walton had a chance to win it before Eastmond took the ball away.

Bowyer ended up with 13 points for Walton and Nick Wells had 11.
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