Fourth-ranked Pebblebrook outscored No. 8 Wheeler 17-6 in the game’s final 4:50 Friday at the Cobb Civic Center, holding the Wildcats to one field goal in that stretch, for a 75-64 victory that clinched the No. 1 seed in next week’s Region 2-AAAAAAA boys basketball tournament.
The win also completed a season sweep of Wheeler by the Falcons, who finished the regular season 22-1 overall and 10-0 in the region. Wheeler (15-7, 8-2), which also lost to Pebblebrook 71-68 on Dec. 16, will be the No. 2 seed in the region tournament.
Dwight Murray scored six of his 17 points in the final minute as the Falcons put the game away. Mervin James led Pebblebrook with 19 points, and Grant Howard added 16.
“I tell the guys all the time that there are about three different seasons in basketball,” Pebblebrook coach George Washington said. “Right now we just finished up one season, and we did a heck of a job, but whatever we’ve done up until now is null and void. Now you start a whole new season with the region tournament. Now we’ve got to go and try to win the region tournament, and we’re probably going to face them again next week some time. Then we’ve got to get ready for the third season, which is the state playoffs.”
Pebblebrook led 58-49 after a layup by Jalen Harper early in the fourth quarter, but Wheeler went on a 9-0 run to pull even at 58-58 with 4:50 left. Harper, who finished with 10 points, answered with a 3-pointer that gave the Falcons the lead for good. Wheeler’s only points the rest of the way came on four free throws and a layup by Isaiah Holt.
Wheeler was led by E.J. Montgomery and Kenny Burns, who scored 15 points each. Montgomery, an All-American selection, scored 10 of his points in the third quarter and finished the game with 17 rebounds. Burns scored all of his points on five 3-pointers.
“I just told the guys that the No. 1 emphasis was just to rebound and defend at a high level,” Washington said. “We had to slow down the McDonald’s All-American. He still had a million dunks, but we wanted him to take hard shots and contested shots. He got his in spurts, but I think we did a good job of slowing him down.”
Pebblebrook led 2-0 before the game even tipped off. The Falcons’ Howard made two free throws after a technical foul was called on Wheeler for an error in the scorebook.
The Falcons maintained the lead through the first quarter and early in the second, but Wheeler took its first lead when back-to-back 3-pointers by Burns put the Wildcats ahead 25-22. The teams traded small scoring runs over the next two quarters until Pebblebrook pulled away down the stretch.