Meanwhile, forward Jaylen Brown, who had cramped up taking free throws back in the second overtime, found the strength to join the Wheeler student section in a raucous, bobbing celebration.
Fatigue manifests itself in different ways for different people, but after outlasting Shiloh for a 93-90 victory in triple overtime, elation carried the day for Wheeler, which will head into its third-round Class AAAAAA state playoff matchup at North Gwinnett on Thursday short on fresh legs but still standing nonetheless.
“That’s the best one I’ve ever played,” said Staley, the two-sport Mississippi State signee who finished with 24 points. “I’ve played a lot of great games here, but that was crazy right there. That was the best one.”
With 6-foot-10 Wheeler center Daniel Giddens limited by foul trouble throughout the game, Staley and Brown took center stage in the Wildcats’ frontcourt to hold off a Shiloh squad that rallied from two-possession deficits in all three overtime periods. Brown led all scorers with 35 points, pouring in 17 in the extra 12 minutes of action, including three key free throws late in the third overtime.
“We just had to take over,” Staley said. “It was hard. We had a tough spot, but we just had to keep playing hard, go back to our gameplan, run through our plays and execute.”
Shiloh (19-12) held a 51-45 lead through three quarters, but Staley and Brown dragged Wheeler (26-5) back into the game with a string of tough baskets, culminating with Staley’s game-tying lay-in with just over 2 minutes to play. Avery Patterson drilled his sixth 3-pointer of the game to open the first overtime and give Wheeler an opportunity to pull away, but Shiloh’s full-court press forced multiple game-saving turnovers, and empty possessions on both ends pushed the game to a second overtime with the score tied at 70.
“They didn’t have their ball-handlers, especially when (Patterson) fouled out,” Shiloh coach Kim Rivers said. “We just had to keep grinding. We came up a little short (Tuesday).”
In the final seconds of the second overtime, Shiloh reserve guard Malik Chandler corralled a loose ball off a missed 3 and sank the game-tying putback as time expired, doubling his scoring total in one shot and evening the teams once again, this time at 79.
Chandler stayed hot, draining three 3-pointers in the third overtime, but Brown had already taken control with six straight points for Wheeler during one critical stretch that built the lead to seven points and helped ice down the Generals’ final push.
Chandler’s last-second 3-point attempt in the third overtime caught the back of the rim and bounced away from traffic, leaving the top-seeded Wildcats to celebrate their survival however they saw fit.