COVINGTON, Ga. — Game three of the Covington News Super 8 Showcase was the game that featured the most star power, at least from a name perspective, as perennial Class AAAAAAA power No. 7 Wheeler faced off against ninth-ranked Meadowcreek. Fans on both sides were treated to a high energy game that saw Meadowcreek prevail 59-47 in an upset.
In the beginning, Wheeler opened the game with an 8-0 run that backed its reputation. The spurt was fueled by two quick 3-pointers by Isaac Martin. Meadowcreek called a timeout to stop the bleeding and allow head coach Curtis Gilleylen to calm his team.
“I think in the beginning we were looking at the name of their jersey,” Gilleylen said, “I just told them to calm down and play our game.”
Meadowcreek would, indeed, settle down and so did the game, as there were only 21 points scored between the two teams in the opening period that Wheeler finish it with a 13-8 lead.
In the second quarter, Jamir Chaplin took control of the Meadowcreek offense while Martin and EJ Montgomery kept pace for Wheeler. It was also this quarter that the intensity really picked up. Both teams started talking back and forth, and the chippiness would boil over in the second half. Wheeler was able to maintain its lead throughout the second quarter and took a 30-22 lead into halftime.
Meadowcreek came out in the second half with a run that mirrored the Wheeler spurt it endured at the beginning of the game.
Led by Chaplin and freshman point guard Kendrick Green, the Mustangs opened up with a 7-0 run to close gap to just one point.
“He’s (Kendrick) wise beyond his years,” Gilleyen said, “His size says he’s a freshman but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”
What followed was a swing of emotions.
The talking between the players got to be too much for the refs to excuse and Amari Kelly of Meadowcreek was given a technical foul. Martin would knock down the shots and Wheeler lead increased to three. This lit a fire under senior Mustangs forward Cory Hightower.
Hightower would go to work, scoring eight in the quarter and more importantly, getting Wheeler’s Montgomery into foul trouble. Montgomery picked up his fourth foul with four minutes to go in the third and wouldn’t return until the fourth quarter. Meadowcreek took advantage and took its first lead of the game, 37-36, to the start of the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats would not go quietly. Players like Austin Johnson and Isaiah Holt picked up the slack where star players couldn’t and regained the lead for Wheeler midway through the fourth. However, Hightower, would not be denied on this night.
Hightower scored back-to-back baskets to regain the lead with three minutes to go. One minute later, he converted an and-1 opportunity to extend the lead to six.
Wheeler cut it to four with under one minute to play, but a technical foul on Wheeler coach Larry Thompson for lashing out at the officials for seemingly missing a traveling call put Meadowcreek to the line with a chance to seal the game.
The Mustangs finished the upset and Chaplin ended the game with a windmill dunk at the buzzer to secure the 59-47 win. Hightower finished with 19 points while Chaplin had 17, Martin lead Wheeler with 16 points.
In year two of Gilleyen’s tenure, Meadowcreek got a statement win for the program right before sinking into the depths of region play. According to Hightower, it’s a sign of things to come for the Mustangs.
“It’s a big win for us,” Hightower said, “We felt like everyone was sleeping on us. Well it’s time to wake up.”