March to Macon: King's Ridge and Wheeler Close the Season on Top
Another season of GHSA basketball is in the books. It’s always bittersweet to close a chapter, but it was an impressive way to cap off careers for some seniors who have left impressions on the Georgia basketball community.
King’s Ridge and Wheeler pick up wins on Saturday to end the season on the top of their respective mountains.
Let’s take a look at what went down in Macon.
Wheeler adds another banner to Holt Road with a 78-58 win over Cherokee.
This is the ninth state title for the Wildcats and their third in four seasons.
Early on, Wheeler’s 3-point shooting was the story. They went 7-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. Ricky McKenzie accounted for three of those.
When it looked like the Wildcats would pull away, the scrappy Warriors made several pushes to keep the game within arm’s reach.
Ultimately, Wheeler used a late run to create separation for good.
Isaiah Collier, Arrinten Page, Ricky McKenzie, Jelani Hamilton and DJ Mitchell finished in double figures for the Wildcats while Braylin Giddens, Cam Pope, Tayden Owens and Dastin Hart did the same for Cherokee.
An appropriate ending
From a national perspective, Isaiah Collier was the face of Georgia basketball this season. Locally, he’s been a cornerstone of the community for his entire career.
After posting 22 points and 7 assists to lead Wheeler to another state title, the final buzzer sounded as an emotional, exasperated Collier clutched the ball and fell to the ground.
He’s a player who has had a high school career that stacks up with the all-time greats in the Peach State, and the tight-knight Georgia basketball community knows what he and Coach Thompson have been through this season having to attempt to recover from the loss of a family member.
The final scene of this game, the final scene of the season, couldn’t have been scripted any more appropriately.
Congratulations to our Boys 7A Player of the Game, @WheelerHoops' @isaiahcollier04. He had 22 points, 9/13 FG's, seven assists and three rebounds in his team's 7A state final win! #GPBSports pic.twitter.com/TWcKIbeAbs— GPB Sports (@GPBsports) March 12, 2023
Cherokee lives up to the Warriors moniker
A tip of the cap should go to Coach Veihman and this Cherokee squad. They had a tremendous season and elevated the foundation that had been set for the program. They were scrappy, they were fearless, and they fought their way to Macon.
This was the school’s first championship appearance since 1982, and while they didn’t come out on the winning end on Saturday, what this team accomplished will go down in history at the school and will be talked about in basketball circles around the state for years to come.
Growth and development
While sending seniors off is a bittersweet feeling, it’s also a time to reflect on how far they’ve come. Wheeler’s Arrinten Page and DJ Mitchell are two shining examples of that.
They’ve been with the program for a while now, and both have come a long way throughout their journeys.
Two years ago, those two were buried on Wheeler’s bench when they on a 6A championship, but now, they helped lead the Wildcats back to the top.
Page turned into one of the best forwards in his class while Mitchell is one of the most unheralded, valuable players in the state. The pair combined for 26 points ad 12 rebounds in the win.
King’s Ridge wins its first state championship with a 68-58 final over Mount Pisgah.
The Tigers opened the game hot. They went into halftime with a 40-21 lead over the Patriots thanks to strong halves from Micah Hoover and Zak Thomas.
The second half saw foul trouble aid in King’s Ridge’s lead dissipating. Mount Pisgah chipped away at a 22-point deficit and cut it to single digits.
However, King’s Ridge was able to overcome that game pressure and kept their composure to secure the win.
Micah for MVP
As has been the case for much of the season, Micah Hoover was a beast for King’s Ridge. His athleticism, physicality and motor led him to a monster performance that led to the Tigers’ first state title. He finished with 25 points and 8 rebounds.
The first half set the tone for how things would go for Hoover. He finished the half with 21 points which matched Mount Pigah’s total as a team.
Hoover pressured the Patriots around the basket. He made a killling at the free-throw line going 8-8 at the stripe in the first half. While Hoover dominated around the basket, he also stepped away from the paint and connected for a few jumpers.
His dominant first half saw him become the focal point of the defense which opened things up for everyone else in the second half.
Don’t forget about Thomas
Micah Hoover was the MVP. He was the story of the game. However, he didn’t do it on his own. Zak Thomas was sensational for the Tigers as well.
Thomas finished his game with 24 points and 5 rebounds. Whenever Hoover wasn’t making a play, it was Thomas who was making things happen for the Tigers.
Shots weren’t falling for King’s Ridge like they usually would—which seems to be a theme for most teams this week—but Thomas knocked down three 3-pointers. Additionally, Thomas was a consistent source of offense on drives to the basket.
Micah Tucker’s sophomore star continues to shine
Micah Tucker was the region Player of the Year in the toughest region in A-DI, and he’s likely going to be the POY for the classification in general. He played like that kind of guy on Saturday before he fouled out.
Tucker was the catalyst that sparked the Patriots’ run in the second half. When he picked up his fifth foul, it felt like the air was let out of their proverbial balloon.
He finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Only a sophomore, Tucker will have plenty of chances to play for championships during his basketball career.
This game didn’t go his way at the end of the day, but as a star should, he stepped up and played well on a grand stage.