Contributed by Chuck Jones
No. 8 Wheeler 94, Westlake 77
January 4, 2018 (Marietta, GA): Due to a previous snow storm, the No. 8 Wheeler Wildcats (10-5) hosted the Westlake Lions (7-5) as a make-up game in Class Region 2-AAAAAAA action.
With both teams coming off recent wins, the highly anticipated match-up featured several well known players in the college basketball recruiting world; most notably, five-star senior forward, E.J. Montgomery. With the likes of junior wing Isaac Martin, senior combo-forward Brandon Younger and junior floor general, Jaire “Roscoe” Eastman, Wheeler has plenty of depth surrounding the 6-foot-10 Montgomery.
Westlake, on the other hand, has traditionally rostered contending teams and this season is no different. Westlake boasts the ultra-athletic junior guard, Chase Hunter. The Lions’ leading gunner is supported by 6-foot-8 senior forward Brandon Favors, junior guards Quincy Olivary, Kaleb Wallace, Koby Issac and 6-foot-10 freshman, Frank Anselem.
The contest started with high energy as the two teams went back and forth in the opening quarter while eight different players scored on the combined teams. Westlake led the first quarter 19-18, as Montgomery was held scoreless in the quarter for Wheeler. That didn’t stop the underrated Eastman from finding his other Wildcat teammates for easy baskets to keep the game close as Hunter had the early hot hand for Westlake with 11 points.
The second quarter had the feathery jumper of Martin on display as he splashed three-pointer after three-pointer for the No. 8 ranked team, according to the Sandy’s Spiel boys rankings. Martin’s scoring was matched by Hunter of Westlake, who attacked the Wildcats defense every chance he had while compiling 24 first half points. Despite the Hunter’s individual performance, Wheeler still managed to lead at the half, 42-39.
— sportalspace (@sportalspace) January 5, 2018
The unsigned big man turned his knob up and gave Favors all he could stand in the paint, with six dunks in the half, one that showed his ability to handle the ball in the open court and finish. Wheeler’s “Lil’ General,” Eastman must have showed up to the game with a pocket full of change because it seemed like he was dropping dimes all over the gym, as he had a game-high 14 assists.
According to Coach Thompson, Wheeler knew that coming in, the Wildcats would have to contain Hunter. Thompson said, “we focused more on our transition defense in the second half, which was the game’s turning point.”
Wheeler was able to tame Hunter and played with a better sense of urgency in the final two periods as they wore down the Lions en route to a 94-77 victory. Westlake was led by Hunter’s game-high 32 points, while Montgomery finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks for the Wildcats. Wheeler’s Martin, added 19 points with five three-point baskets. Wheeler will travel to West Virginia and will play in the Cancer Research Classic this Saturday.