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Wheeler looks to 'ride this wave' toward the playoffs after overtime win over Newton

Isaiah Collier and Wheeler (17-4) pull away for a 74-69 win after Stephon Castle tied the game for Newton (17-4) by hitting three free throws with six seconds left in regulation.
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By Zach Shugan | Photos by Ed Turlington

MILTON, Ga. — In an event stacked with 12 elite programs and six big games, one matchup garnered more attention than the rest. 

Whenever a pair of star-studded, perennial powerhouses like Wheeler and Newton face off, fans and media members alike flock to the gym anticipating a show.

The Wildcats and Rams did not disappoint Saturday night in the Longhorn Steakhouse Five-Star Classic at Milton High School.

Isaiah Collier and Wheeler (17-4) pulled away for a 74-69 win in overtime after Stephon Castle tied the game for Newton (17-4) by hitting three free throws with six seconds left in regulation.

“We’re familiar with each other,” Wheeler head coach Larry Thompson said. “That’s a championship-level team and a championship-level coach, and there was no quit in them. They made it really, really tough for us.”

After Newton jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes, Wheeler responded with an 11-0 run to take the lead. 

The two went back and forth, with the lead changing nine times throughout the night. Wheeler was out in front for most of the game until Newton pitched its comeback in the fourth quarter. 

The Rams tied the game with six seconds remaining after Collier was called for a foul on a Castle three-pointer. The junior UConn commit sank all three of his free throws to even the score at 63.

In overtime, Collier and the Wildcats put their feet on the gas pedal for one last run, regaining control and taking home the win.

“Both teams were playing shorthanded, but I think what tipped it in our favor was they had a really tough matchup last night with Grayson,” Thompson said. “I could tell they were a little fatigued.”

While both squads are loaded with athletic, talented players, Wheeler had a slight advantage over Newton in the size department.

Collier, a five-star point guard listed at 6-foot-3, led the charge for the Wildcats with 24 points. When he wasn’t scoring, he was looking to get the ball inside to Arrinten Page and Jalani Reynolds, who are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6, respectively. 

Reynolds finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Page added 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Kyle Burns, a Radford commit, tallied 18 points (two 3-pointers) and three assists. 

The win over Newton, a team widely considered one of the favorites to win it all this year in Class 7A, gave Wheeler another notch in its belt as it heads into the final two weeks of the regular season.

“This is a tuneup to get us playing some really good basketball heading into the back end of our schedule,” Thompson said. “Hopefully we can ride this wave a little bit.”

The Wildcats' remaining schedule includes region games against Osborne (18-2) and one against Kell (12-8), last year’s 6A state runner-up.

Newton was led by Castle’s 30 points (15 for 16 on free throws), and Marcus Whitlock added 19. Junior Marquavious “Qua” Brown, a Georgia commit, went for 10 points and nine rebounds. 

The Rams wrap up the regular season with region games against Parkview, Grayson, Brookwood and South Gwinnett.

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