Payback was the theme Friday night when the Wheeler Wildcats traveled to Mableton to take on the Pebblebrook Falcons. The Wheeler girls hoped to avenge a 66-20 defeat at the hands of their conference rival, while the Pebblebrook boys sought to even the season record with a Wildcat team ranked 11th in the state.
The Pebblebrook girls squashed any hope of revenge early, on their way to a 81-41 win. An aggressive trapping zone forced the Wildcats into turnovers and led to easy baskets. When they weren’t shooting layups off turnovers, the Falcons feasted in the paint against the overmatched Wildcats and finished the night shooting an impressive 57% from the field. A couple of three-pointers by senior guard Azaria Alexander provided the Falcons only offense from deep, where they shot a dismal 16%.
Wheeler senior Jadah Waite led the Wildcats with six first-half points, while senior forward Jayla Stallworth led Pebblebrook with 12.
The Falcons ended the first quarter up nine, 23-14, and upped the pressure in the second to take a 22-point lead, 43-21, into halftime.
“We’re not rotating well on the half-court press, and we’re not trapping hard, but I do like the way we shared the ball on the break,” Coach Tina Hadley said, giving her team a mixed review after what most would consider an impressive first half.
Sloppy play by both teams led to a low-scoring third quarter, as Pebblebrook added 14 to its total, and Wheeler tossed in another 11. The period ended with the Falcons leading comfortably, 57-33.
The fourth quarter gave subs from both squads a chance to get in on the action. Pebblebrook senior Ayana Robinson took full advantage with four quick buckets to finish with eight points in her final home game. Freshman Kelcei Rivers added six points in the final period.
Jayla Stallworth led all scorers with 18 points. Ravyn Madaris, Milana Holmes, and Azaria Alexander chipped in 13, 12, and 10, respectively. Madaris also added three assists and five steals. Holmes led the Falcons with seven rebounds.
Jadah Waite led Wheeler with 14 points and added four rebounds. Iyeleonna Short added seven points. Nia Wazeerud-Din grabbed five boards for the Wildcats.
The loss dropped the Wildcats’ record to 6-18, while Pebblebrook improved to 18-7.
The last time the Pebblebrook and Wheeler boys met, the hard-fought game hung in the balance until late turnovers by the Falcons tilted the game in Wheeler’s favor. This time, Pebblebrook maintained composure down the stretch and held on for a 70-67 win.
Both teams expected another battle and knew exactly what it would take to take down a win.
“We have to take care of the basketball . . . being on the road it’s a little bit harder to get what you want to get offensively,” said Wheeler coach Larry Thompson. “We’ve got to make sure we take care of the basketball, rebound the basketball, and really focus in defensively. We’ve got to stick to our keys and make sure we stay in front of these guys and really guard them.”
For Pebblebrook coach George Washington, winning would come down to toughness and protecting the basketball: “We gotta be tough, we gotta play fast, we gotta be physical, and we gotta rebound the basketball. If we do those things, we should be okay.”
Both teams got off to slow starts offensively in a physical first quarter that saw Wheeler senior forward Sam Hines, Jr. drop 10 of Wheeler’s first 19 points. Pebblebrook junior guard Danny Stubbs kept things close with drives to the basket and pull-up jumpers to finish the quarter with seven. The first quarter ended with Wheeler leading 19-16, following three free-throws by Hines, Jr. after being fouled on a desperation fling from around mid-court.
The second quarter unfolded much like the first, with aggressive, man-to-man defense, low scoring, and physical play. Hines, Jr. continued as focus of the Wheeler offense, while Jamall Clyce took over the scoring burden for the Falcons and began a parade to the foul line that would see Pebblebrook make 28 of 29 foul shots for the game. Late in the quarter, Wheeler went zone for the first time in the game and further stifled the anemic Pebblebrook offense.
The sluggish first half ended on a Wheeler fast break layup, giving the Wildcats a 34-29 lead.
A couple of quick steals by the Falcons led to a layup and a breakaway dunk to cut the Wheeler lead to one to open the second half. The halftime break also seemed to wake up Pebblebrook sophomore guard Andre Young, who dropped seven points after a scoreless first half. Hines, Jr. continued to carry the bulk of the offensive load for the Wildcats, but was joined by Prince Davies and Jahiem Hudson, who chipped in four and five points, respectively. The third quarter ended tied at 53.
Things remained tight throughout the fourth quarter, as both teams struggled to score. Stubbs led the way for Pebblebrook with eight points. He was aided by six points from junior Kaleb Washington and several clutch free-throws by Young. Hines, Jr. scored seven for Wheeler, while Hudson added five.
Stubbs and Hines, Jr. both scored 29 to share leading scorer honors. Young added 10 for Pebblebrook, and Hudson chipped in 11 for Wheeler. Pebblebrook improved to 13-13, while Wheeler dropped to 17-7.