No. 1-ranked Wheeler put together a near-perfect third quarter to erase a seven-point halftime deficit and roll to a 67-52 win over No. 7 Pebblebrook in the Class AAAAAA semifinal at Georgia Tech.
Wheeler (28-5) outscored Pebblebrook 20-4 in the third period and will now play Tift County for the championship on Saturday at 8:45 p.m. at the Macon Coliseum. Wheeler is gunning for its sixth state championship, the first since 2009.
“Coach told us to rebound,” Wheeler forward Elijah Staley said to explain the second-half turnaround. “That was the difference.”
Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said, “We played defense and played hard.”
Wheeler got 21 points from Jaylen Brown, 19 from Staley and 14 from Avery Patterson.
Pebblebrook (24-6) was led by Ty Hudson with 16, Chrisopher Nelson with 12 and Kevin Murph with 10. The Wheeler defense shutout Nelson in the second half.
“I’m excited to go to the finals,” Staley said. “We’re hungry. We didn’t want the same thing happen to us last year when we lost. We knew we had to win this game.”
The game was tied 10-10 when Wheeler surged to score the final eight points of the first quarter and take an 18-10 lead. But Pebblebrook outscored the Wildcats 11-3 to open the quarter and tie the game at 21-21 with four minutes left.
Pebblebrook broke a 25-25 tie by scoring the final seven points of the half, with Nelson scoring the final five on a 3-pointer and another field goal. Nelson scored 12 points in the first half, which Pebblebrook led 32-25.
Wheeler didn’t waste any time chopping away at the lead and reeled off seven straight points to tie the game 32-32 on a basket by Brown with 4:38 left. The Wildcats didn’t stop there. That was the middle of a 20-2 run that put them ahead 41-34. The last period was filled with dunks by Staley, Daniel Giddens and Brown, who came away flexing his right arm after one slam.