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MARIETTA (GA) – Wheeler’s plan to avenge a December loss to Westlake was evident right after the referee tossed the ball into the air.
Displaying his ability find open teammates, knock down jumpshots and impressively handle the ball, Louisville signee Darius Perry scored 25 points and handed out five assists to lead Wheeler (GA) to a 78-63 home win over Westlake (GA) at Wildcat Arena on January 24.
“They played hard and they were consistent,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “I’m very proud of the effort we gave as a team. I know we had some lapses but at the end of the day I can’t complain about the effort.”
Junior E.J. Montgomery, a 6-10 Auburn commit, added 18 points and six rebounds, and USC commit Jordan Usher had 14 points (all coming via dunks) and five assists for the Wildcats, who also bounced back nicely from a 20-point loss to Greensboro Day (NC) three days earlier.
“I didn’t think we played terrible,” said Perry of the loss at the Peachtree Corners Invitational. “It was mostly our offense. We actually played really good defense. We held them to 56 points but couldn’t score the ball–make layups, jumpers we usually hit. That really hurt us.”
Just like over at Westlake, Wheeler started the game on a high note but this time the Wildcats (16-5) would not relinquish their lead on the way to a highlight worthy performance.
“The way we lost at Westlake we didn’t think we should have lost that way,” Perry said. “We felt like the score should’ve looked like it did today or more.”
Seconds after the opening tip, Perry threw an alley oop to Usher, who caught the pass with two hands and finished the play with a one-handed slam. The next time down the floor, Perry buried a 3-pointer for a 5-0 advantage, setting the stage for an explosion of offense in the first quarter.
After Auburn signee Chuma Okeke (23 points) sunk a jumper for a 7-4, the rout was on for Wheeler, which scored 12 consecutive points. Perry got things started with a layup and senior Jordan Tucker (13 points) added one of his own before Montgomery converted a three-point play.
Then Perry, a 6-2 guard, made another layup and followed that with his second 3-pointer of the game, forcing Westlake to call timeout with 4:25 left in the frame and the scoreboard reading 19-4.
“He showed why he is going to Louisville,” Lipscomb said. “I just need to continue to see that.”
Following the break, the Wildcats continued to shoot the lights out, closing the quarter on a 12-6 spurt. During that span, Montgomery had two dunks (one an alley-oop finish) on assists from senior Kenny Aninye (five assists) and Tucker and Isaac Martin both nailed 3-pointers.
In the second quarter, Wheeler maintained a comfortable lead and Perry found Montgomery for two more dunks. Montgomery also threw an alley-oop to Usher to help the Wildcats enter the locker room ahead 46-27 at the break.
“I just came in with a real aggressive attitude,” Perry said. “I decided to try to get to the rim and if somebody stepped up then that is an open shot for somebody else. If nobody stepped up then that is a shot for me.”
In the third, Montgomery increased his point total with another dunk and Usher tallied three of his own in the quarter, including a thunderous putback jam.
“Those dunks were crazy,” Perry said. “Those picked us up and made us play harder. When they start dunking it really helps.”
Westlake (13-9) continued to press and trap in the final quarter while Okeke and UCF commit Danny Lewis (12 points) provided most of the offense but Perry made six foul shots and Usher threw down two more emphatic slams as the Wildcats pulled even with the Lions in the region standings at 6-1.
Wheeler has another critical region matchup against Collin Sexton and Pebblebrook (14-5) on January 27 at the Cobb Civic Center.