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North Gwinnett falls to Wheeler in GHSA quarterfinals, 61-58

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The North Gwinnett Bulldogs fell to the Wheeler Wildcats by a 61-58 count in the boys quarterfinals and were eliminated from the GHSA AAAAAA state tournament by the MaxPreps No. 1 team in the state.

As they did in the Region 7 title game against Norcross, the Bulldogs (28-4) had a slow start and fell behind the Wildcats (26-5) but were not able to overcome the cold start against Wheeler as they did against the Blue Devils. North was able to stay close thanks to a smothering defense that resulted in 12 first-half Wheeler turnovers.

North cut a seven-point Wheeler advantage early in the opening stanza to just two, 11-9, by the end of the quarter and then did the same in the second quarter to go to the half trailing by a single point, 18-17.

North was still within a point of Wheeler at 27-26 midway through the third frame, but then the twin towers of Wheeler took over. Daniel Giddens, 6-foot-10, and Jaylen Brown, 6-foot-7, controlled the lane down the stretch and led the Wildcats on a 16-5 run that propelled Wheeler to a 43-31 lead by the time the quarter came to an end.

Wheeler pushed their lead to 13, 46-33, with just over seven minutes to go in the contest and then clung to the lead as North mounted a strong comeback effort that included a 14-4 run that cut the deficit to three, 50-47, with 2:38 to play. The Wildcats were 6-of-7 in the final minutes from the foul line and that secured the W.

Bulldogs coach Zachary Smith said after the game that it "was a heartbreaking loss," and went on to say "They're incredibly talented."

GHSA Boys AAAAAA bracket

Brown had a double-double in the Wheeler victory with 20 points and 11 boards, while Avery Patterson tallied 18 points. Giddens finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.

North was led on offense by Ahmad Carver who had a game-high 22 points and added seven rebounds, four assists and two steals, while TJ Howard added 15 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and three assists. Malik Carter contributed 14 points, while Owen Lewis pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds.

Wheeler moves on to the Final Four where they will face Cobb County-rival Pebblebrook on Saturday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.

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