MARIETTA — Wheeler overcame a slow start and came from behind to defeat Kell 68-64 on Thursday in a rematch of last year’s Class AAAAAA state championship game.
Kell (8-7, 6-2 Region 6AAAAAA) dominated in the first quarter with a 22-14 lead as Wheeler (10-3, 7-0) struggled to solve the Longhorns’ zone defense. The Wildcats, however, got back on track and outscored the Longhorns 54-42 over the next three quarters.
“We didn’t play well, and Kell had a lot to do with that,” Wheeler coach Larry Thompson said. “We came out a little lethargic and got in early foul trouble. Their zone slowed us down really, really early. We were struggling to find quality offense, and it was all because of what Kell did to us, so kudos to them. Those guys are playing better.
It was the first time the east Cobb rivals had met since top-ranked Wheeler defeated ninth-ranked Kell 71-61 in the title game last March in Macon.
“This game is always tough — Kell vs. Wheeler,” Thompson said. “It’s one of those things that nobody expects it to be a run-out type of game, because this is what we’ve done all in the past. All of these games have been close, and all of these games have been really, really competitive, and I figured it would be that way. Those guys have a lot of pride, and they beat us the last time we played here for the region championship, so they’ve had some success here and they know how to win here. We were lucky to get away with the win (Thursday).”
Juvon Gamoy scored 18 points, while Isaiah Collier added 17 points, Kyle Burns had 11 points and Arrinten Page had 10 to lead Wheeler.
Peyton Marshall scored 22 points and Parrish Johnson had 12 for Kell.
With the game tied 7-all, Kell went on a 12-2 run to take a 19-9 lead with 55 seconds left in the first quarter. Three-pointers by Colon started and finished the runs.
Kell went on to finish the first quarter with a 22-14 lead and led 33-27 with 1:14 left in the first half when Collier hit a 3-pointer and then stole the ball and drove in for a layup to help Wheeler cut its deficit to 33-32, which was the score at halftime.
Collier started the second half with a jumper that gave Wheeler a 34-33 lead — its first of the game — and Page’s jumper extended the advantage to 36-33 before Cambridge’s 3-pointer evened the score up at 36-all with 6:32 remaining in the third quarter.
The rest of the quarter remained close, with the score tied several times before Johnson’s jumper at the buzzer put Kell ahead 52-50 at the end of the period.
The game remained close in the fourth quarter until Wheeler went on a run that turned a 62-61 lead with 2:36 remaining into a 68-62 advantage with 20 seconds to go. Page scored on a one-handed, alley-oop dunk to make it 64-61.
After Cambridge hit one of two free throws to cut Kell’s deficit to 64-62, Collier scored on a layup and Burns made two free throws to help put the game out of reach.
“I’m proud of my guys, how hard they fought,” Kell coach Jermaine Sellers said. “We executed in certain moments, but we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. We need to put ourselves in better situations to be successful offensively, as far as executing in half-court and stuff like that.”
Kell 73, Wheeler 16: Amaya Moss had 21 points and five rebounds to lead Kell in Region 6AAAAAA play.
Jada Peterson finished with 16 points. Crystal Henderson had 11 points, five assists and five steals, and Jamiah Gregory added nine points for the Lady Longhorns (14-2, 7-1).