The top-seeded Wildcats (21-5) advanced to Monday’s semifinal, where they will face either Cherokee. With the win, Wheeler clinched a place in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, while the eighth-seeded Wolverines’ season came to a close.
Despite the weeklong layoff from practice due to the winter storm, Woodstock came out with the hot hand and built a 15-6 lead with 2:22 left in the first quarter, following a layup from Jalen Hannah
Wheeler took some time to get things going offensively. Back-to-back field goals from Staley and Avery Patterson ignited a 25-6 run for the Wildcats, who trailed 17-13 at the end of the first period, but took a 31-21 halftime lead.
Daniel Giddens’ putback with 6:35 in the second quarter tied the contest at 17-all and the Wildcats took their first lead at 20-19 after Patterson’s 3-pointer with 5:10 on the clock.
Wheeler never looked back from that point on and outscored Woodstock 19-12 in the third quarter for a 50-38 margin heading into the final frame.
“Not practicing affected us a little,” said Patterson, who finished with 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and six assists. “We weren’t talking early like we were supposed to. Once we started communicating, things got better and we found a rhythm.
“We’re still not consistent yet, but we’re getting there. We have some work to do to be the team we want to be.”
The Wildcats’ pressure defense in the second half led to some quick baskets off easy turnovers, leading to the 30-point win.
Wheeler went 14-of-21 at the free-throw line, compared to 4-of-7 for Woodstock. The Wildcats’ defense contributed to a 25-12 fourth-quarter scoring edge.
Staley added four rebounds, three assists and five steals for Wheeler. Giddens finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Jaylen Brown totaled 12 points and six boards.
“I thought we surprised (Wheeler) early,” Woodstock coach Brady Richeson said. “We made shots, but they made some adjustments and we couldn’t answer. Wheeler was great in transition and their size and athleticism gave us problems. They really turned it up in the second half.”
Preston Hurter finished with 10 points, including three 3-pointers, and three rebounds for the Wolverines. Thomas Carroll added three assists and a tied for team-high honors with 13 points. Chris Mowery also had 13 points.