MARIETTA -- If there was any questions about just how good Wheeler High School will be this year, the Wildcats certainly put any sort of doubts to rest on Saturday evening.
Wheeler, the top team on the Georgia Hoops Power Poll, shot the lights out en route to a 87-78 victory over No. 7 McEachern. All five starters for Wheeler scored in double figures, including a team high 24 from sophomore Phil Taylor and 23 points from junior Ari Stewart.
Up only by three points at the halftime break, Wheeler went on a 15-0 run to start the second half and thus cracked the game wide open. The Wildcats mixed in hot shooting on the perimeter and athletic plays at the cup to spark the game-changing run.
Taylor, junior Tahj Tate, Dequan Jones and Richard Howell all hit key three-pointers in the second half. McEachern simply didn't have the answers to stop all of the size and athleticism that Wheeler rolled out on the floor.
McEachern had it's bright moments, courtesy of
Garrett finished with 17 points while sophomore guard Trae Golden put in 19 points. Golden's game is predicated on aggressiveness and the Indians never seemed to find its edge. Thus Golden, an
Junior Alioune Diouf was quietly effective in the defeat as the wing put in 18 points.
What we learned:
- When all of the wheels are rolling, Wheeler is the best team in the state. No one has more weapons, size, athleticism an versatility in a starting lineup.
- Even with all of the size, Wheeler can be just as dangerous on the wing as shooters. They won't always be knocking down shots like they were on Saturday night but when they do, watch out.
- Phil Taylor, only a sophomore, looked like the most poised player on the court in this one for Wheeler. He's solid each time out, makes the right decisions and has done a fine job of running this team full of Division I talent.
- We're not sure how long we can say this but Tahj Tate is the biggest sleeper in the state. The 6-2 junior can fly, knock down shots and has the tools to be a nice looking guard at the college level.
- If Trae Golden can't power his way to the basket, he really struggles.
- McEachern seemed to play at half speed on both sides of the ball. With a team full of athletic players, it was odd to see the team move rather lethargically.
- McEachern showed some resiliency in the second quarter and battled back thanks to key plays from Darrius Garrett. But giving up a 15-0 run to start the second half will usually be detrimental.