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Wheeler (Ga.) defeats #1 Montverde for City of Palms title

December 24, 2014
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The Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler Wildcats claimed the right to be declared the best high school basketball team in the nation.

Wheeler, ranked No. 10 in USA Today’s Super 25, ended multiple winning streaks held by No. 1 Montverde Academy, defeating the Eagles 72-65 Tuesday night in front of 2,000-plus fans at Bishop Verot High School’s John Nevins Gymnasium. The 42nd Annual Culligan City of Palms Classic came to a close.

Wheeler became the first team from Georgia to win the Classic. It also became the first public school program to win the tournament since Niagara Falls (N.Y.) did so in 2004. It also ended Montverde coach Kevin Boyle and his program’s bid to win three consecutive titles since Cypress Lake did in 1979-81, before the tournament transformed into a national format.

“First of all, I’m so proud of my players,” said Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb, whose team improved to 9-0. “If we play together, we can be pretty darn good.”

The game went back and forth, with Wheeler claiming a final momentum burst on a 3-pointer by Tennessee-bound Shembari Phillips for a 54-51 lead.

Although the Eagles tied the score again at 56-56 and led again at 59-58, the damage had been done, Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said.

Once the Wildcats believed they could win, Boyle said, his team had a problem.

“Our guards needed to step up and put a body on Jaylen Brown,” Boyle said of the heralded senior, who is being recruited by Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Georgia and Georgia Tech. “It’s tough when a player like him gets an opening.”

Brown scored a team-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He made 6-of-10 field goals, including 2-of-2 3-pointers and 11-of-13 free throws on his way to the Most Valuable Player Award.

“He’s a very fast and physical player,” Boyle said. “They are a solid, quality team. They played with a lot of heart and a lot of energy.”

The Eagles displayed that at times as well. Senior Ben Simmons, a LSU signee, scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Brown, who fouled out with a minute remaining, said he was thrilled with winning the title.

“It just shows that the rankings, although we respect them, they don’t really mean anything,” Brown said. “Everybody thinks our team is just me. We have a lot of players. I’m proud of our guys.”

Montverde Academy (65): Martez Cameron 0-0 0-0 0, Howard Washington 4-11 0-0 12, Marcel Ponitka 5-11, 0-0 11, Ben Simmons 11-17 6-8 28, Jean Marc Koumadje 0-1 0-0 0, E.J. Montgomery 3-8 0-0 7, Brian Graves 0-3 0-0 0, Marque Lechter-Ellis 2-6 2-4 6, Doral Moore 0-0 1-2 1, Blake Harris 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 9-14 65.

Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler (72): Jalen Brown 6-10 11-13 25, Hakeem Anchrum 0-1 2-2 2, Makhai Eastmond 1-3 0-0 2, Darius Perry 3-12 7-12 15, Shembari Phillips 9-13 0-2 20, Bilal Abdur-Rahim 2-2 2-2 6, Cameron Jordan 1-2 0-0 2, Kenny Aninya 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-43 22-31 72.

3-pointers: Montverde 6-26 (Washington 4-10, Ponitka 1-5, Simmons 0-2, Montgomery 1-4, Graves 0-3, Lechter-Ellis 0-2). Wheeler 6-15 (Brown 2-2, Perry 2-7, Phillips 2-4). Rebounds: Montverde 24 (Simmons 11), Wheeler 28 (Brown 12). Assists: Montverde 12 (Ponitka 4), Wheeler 11 (Brown 6).

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