E.A. Sports Today

Stabbed in the heart

White Plains’ trip to Tennessee ends on a sophomore’s 3-pointer that beat the buzzer in overtime
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Getting beat at the buzzer is excruciatingly painful, leaving a hole in one’s gut not even the biggest Thanksgiving feast can fill. The White Plains basketball team knows that feeling all too well.
The Wildcats’ pre-holiday trip to the Coach T Classic here ended in more gut-wrenching heartache Wednesday. After leading most of the second half, they were struck down by sophomore point guard James Wilkins’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer sending them to a crushing 61-58 overtime loss to North Carolina’s Calvary Day at Boyd Buchanan’s Tom Jett Gym.
The Wildcats (4-2) played two nail-biters in less than 16 hours and came up short in both, this time in a way they saw several times last year. As near as coach Chris Randall can recall they lost at least four times at or near the buzzer last year (Hokes Bluff to force an area tiebreaker, Cherokee County in the area tournament and Piedmont and Weaver in the regular season). Of course, they won one like that at home last Friday.
They lost five games by three points or less last season.
“That happened to us four times last year and now once this year where we got beat on a buzzer-beater because we couldn’t close it out,” Randall said. “When you fight and fight and fight and you’re solid for 30 minutes and you can’t finish it, it’s real frustrating. Talent wins at home and toughness wins on the road and we weren’t tough enough to win this game, bottom line.”

This one was particularly tough to swallow with the sting of Tuesday’s loss to host Boyd Buchanan in the last minute still so fresh. They led by 11 in the third quarter, seven midway through the fourth and six with 1:36 to go in regulation. They had the lead and the ball at the end of regulation and had the ball in a tie game right before the end of overtime.
The Wildcats had a chance to apply some pressure at the end of the regulation when, leading by one with 10.7 seconds, Brody Baker missed two free throws. Wilkins missed a potential game-winning runner in the lane, but the Wildcats fouled Javon Floyd on the rebound with 1.5 seconds left.
Floyd made the first free throw to tie it, but missed the second. Owen Gulledge tried tapping up the rebound, but his effort was rebuffed by the rim and the game remained tied and headed into overtime.

“Missed free throws and live-ball turnovers is the story of that game,” Randall said. “Led them the whole game, can’t finish them off. I felt like we had a nine-point lead and the ball and we relaxed. Against a team that talented, live-ball turnovers, not being tough with the ball, and missing free throws is the difference.”

Jacob Wheeler hit another big 3-pointer to give White Plains a 58-56 lead with 1:01 left in the OT. Floyd made two free throws with 43.1 left to tie it.
The Wildcats were setting up for their own winning shot at the buzzer, but Jaden Chatman shuffled his feet trying to get a pass to Wheeler 3.7 seconds to go. The Cougars (6-3) inbounded to Wilkins who raced down the floor and launched what coach Joe Reiback called “just a great shot … that happened in the chaos” right in front of his bench and it swished just as the horn sounded.
“It was a big shot in the game,” Wilkins said. “I had been a little cold in the game, obviously getting to the rim, but then coach just drew up the play for me and I told him before I went out I was going to hit, so I just had the confidence to shoot it and make it.
“I knew there was three seconds (left). Coach said two dribbles and put it up and my guys were setting screens for me so I was pretty much wide open for that.”
It stood to reason the Wildcats would be looking for Wheeler when their turn came to go for the big shot. Wheeler hit six of the Wildcats’ 10 3-pointers, most at big times. He opened the fourth quarter with one after the Cougars closed the third with a six-point run to cut the lead to four. He hit one later in the quarter to take it back to six. Another gave them a 50-46 lead with 1:16 left in regulation.
“I made the shots,” Wheeler said. “My teammates got it to me. We called the play and I was open so I shot it, and made it.”
Wheeler led all scorers with 24 points. Floyd led Calvary Day with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Zach Gibson had 15. Wilkins finished with 18 points.
The Wildcats never got to see Cougars’ 7-footer James Maguek. Reiback said he would’ve played had the Wildcats been missing shots, but they never did.
Host Boyd Buchanan completed a 3-0 sweep of the event with a 64-32 win over Tennessee Christian. Eli Evans led the Buccaneers with 13 points.

Coach T Classic, Chattanooga
Calvary Day (N.C.) 61, White Plains 58 (OT)
James Wilkins 8 1-3 18, Zach Gibson 6 2-2 15, Bryson Burton 0 0-0 0, Javon Floyd 7 6-8 20, Owen Gulledge 0 2-5 2, Mark Navickes 0 0-0 0, Seth Kunkel 0 0-0 0, Jack Hooten 0 0-0 0, Charles McClanahan 3 0-0 6. Totals 24 11-18 61.
WHITE PLAINS (4-2) – Coleman Messer 0 0-0 0, Quin Wilson 2 0-0 6, Jaden Chatman 2 5-6 10, Jacob Wheeler 8 2-4 24, Landon Senciboy 0 0-0 0, Brody Baker 4 3-8 11, Carson Wright 0 0-0 0, Walker Osteen 2 0-2 4, Kahlil Williams 1 0-0 3, Garrett Wilson 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 10-20 58.
Calvary Day     12 8  11  21 9  –  61
White Plains   17 8  10  17 6  –  58
3-point goals: Calvary Day 2 (Wilkins, Gibson); White Plains 10 (Q. Wilson 2, Chatman, Wheeler 6, Williams). Total fouls: Calvary Day 21, White Plains 15. Officials: Steve Noble, Shay Smith, Tyler Love.

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