MARIETTA, Ga. – Ten men started the Georgia Class 7A battle between Pebblebrook and Wheeler Friday night at a sold-out Cobb Civic Center. Nine hold high D-1 offers. That’s a lot of talent on one court. That can make for a competitive game, too. Pebblebrook came in ranked third and Wheeler fifth, but in the first meeting between the two Wheeler won, so Pebblebrook, led by a McDonald’s All-American Alabama signee, was looking for some revenge. And, despite trailing by 15 in the third quarter, they rallied and took an 80-77 win before 3,100 standing-room-only folks with at least another 500 turned away by the fire marshall. The rivals meet again next Friday on ESPNU at 4:30 CT. To the categories:
TOP PROSPECT: That honor goes to Alabama signee-McDonald’s All-America Collin Sexton. Coming off a 53-point, 11 3-pointer game Tuesday against Campbell on his Senior Night, he knew he’d face a better defense in Wheeler and he did. The Wildcats “held” Sexton to no 3-pointers. However, he still scored 35 points. How? Well, two thunder dunks, and 19-of-22 free throws, for starters. And, in dramatic fashion, the 6-2 star shook off a late leg injury to re-enter the game and draw a foul with 17.5 seconds left and his team up a point. He calmly hit his final two foul shots of the night. Wheeler missed a contested trey at the buzzer, and Pebblebrook had the win.
In short, Sexton is a warrior. He hates to lose. He’s athletic. In some ways, he’s like former Alabama and NBA player James Robinson, and in others he has some Mo Williams in him.
“The most amazing thing I’ve seen Collin do in a ball game is probably hit a 3-pointer shooting over two 7-footers,” said Pebblebrook Coach George Washington, himself a Class of 2000 Alabama grad. “It was contested, and a step- back.”
Like his namesake, Washington cannot tell a lie when it comes to Sexton and how he first caught Alabama’s eye. “We were e down at Alabama’s camp two years ago,” he remembered. “It was before anybody knew who Collin was. Avery (Johnson) and (Antoine) Pettway were down on the baseline. Collin said to me, ‘Coach, on the next fast break, I’m going to bounce the ball high off the floor and dunk it in front of Coach Johnson.’
“He bounced it off the floor, dunked it, and pointed at them, and that’s when Pettway fell in love with Collin. That’s probably one of the craziest things I’ve seen him do.”
Ah, those dunks. “Last week, he dunked on a 6-8 kid after dribbling between his legs,” Washington said, “And the other night, he did a reverse between his legs dunk. He’s practicing some special dunks because he’s trying to win the slam dunk contest at the McDonald’s game. Last night, he had a dunk off against himself. He just competes with himself like you wouldn’t believe.
“I’ve seen him do some crazy stuff at practice.”
Washington said Sexton has upped his game over the last 12 months. “He’s worked on shooting and facilitating,” the coach said. “I’ve told him what’s going to take him over the top is, everybody knows he can score, but he’s got to be able to shoot the ball consistently from three, deep from three, and he’s got to be able to facilitate to get everybody involved, then pick his moments to score.
“Coach (Avery) Johnson sees Collin as a combo guard, a basketball player, and a scorer.”
Well, he is that. All the above. Ask veteran Wheeler Coach Doug Lipscomb, who coached former Alabama center Jermareo Davidson and dozens of other D-1 kids, about Sexton. “He can score the ball, and he gets other people involved, as well,” Lipscomb said.
Sexton did have four assists and seven boards Friday. Basketball player. He missed all seven 3’s on this night, and faded away on them as they were all contested, but as he showed Tuesday, he has his nights behind the arc, too. He is a dynamic, fun to watch guy who will sell tickets in Tuscaloosa, like Willems, Robinson, and Ennis Whatley before him. And he’s an absolute freak athletically. And he hates to lose. He has a warrior mentality.
As to the late injury, Washington said Sexton bumped knees with a Wheeler player and should be fine to play Saturday against Campbell.
SENIORS WHO SHINED: Pebblebrook’s 6-5 wing Elias Harden scored 16 from inside and out and he’s headed for Xavier.
All three of Wheeler’s senior prospects had their moments. The Cats got 21 points from 6-7 Indiana lean Jordan Tucker, 16 points from 6-2 Louisville signee Darius Perry, and 10 from Southern Cal signee Jordan Usher, a 6-5 guard.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: Listed at 6-10, 200, Auburn pledge E.J. Montgomery of Wheeler scored 19 and grabbed 14 boards. He’s a scrapper. He is a smooth free throw shooter, too. He missed a few late inside shots that could have made a difference, but the talent is there.
For the Falcons (yes, Pebblebrook is named for our Super Bowl-bound pro football team here in the ATL), Georgia lean Drue Drinnon can run the point and allow Sexton to roam the wing. Drinnon scored 13 and dealt five assists.
SUPER SOPHS: Pebblebrook’s Jared Jones is committed to Auburn, but you can bet Sexton will work on changing that. Jones is a banger who gets the tough boards and has a nice inside game. He had two dunks among his six points, seven boards.
HOW ‘BOUT THAT SPAGHETTI: Located on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth, Ga., you can get some good Italian food at Vinny’s New York Pizza & Italian Grill. We’d had the delivery pizza, which features a Meat Lovers with meatballs, but had not dined in until recently. I had the spaghetti and was pleased with the meat ratio. Patti had the Lasagna and got a second meal out of it to take to work for lunch. We both enjoyed our crispy lettuce salads. The tea was sweet and the service excellent.