Top-ranked visit to turned into a battle of senior big men Tevin Glass and Chuck Mitchell.
Wheeler's Mitchell won the battle Saturday night, but Milton won the AAAAA war in East Cobb, 65-60.
It was the 14th consecutive win for Milton (18-4), whose only on-court loss came at home Dec. 10 against Tift County, 57-52.
But it was the first time all season that the Eagles won by fewer than 11 points. Against Wheeler (10-8), Milton never led by more than 11.
“Won tonight over a talented and young Wheeler team,” Milton Coach David Boyd tweeted.
Mitchell was the biggest reason a Wheeler lineup packed with freshmen and sophomores made it so close.
He scored a game-high 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 12 rebounds. He drove hard to the basket all night and scored the first and last baskets of the game on offensive rebounds.
But Glass was almost as good for Milton. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds and got stronger as the game continued, scoring nine in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth.
Glass hit four of the six foul shots the Eagles made in the final minute to secure the win.
Jalyn Patterson hit the other two free throws at the end and provided the outside complement Glass needed. He scored 20 points, including four of Milton’s five three-pointers.
Wheeler, ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in different AAAAA polls, largely shut down the rest of Milton’s powerful lineup:
- Evan Nolte hit only one three-pointer and finished with seven points.
- Shaq Johnson had two thundering dunks in the second quarter but managed only six points.
- Charles Mann had four of the Eagles’ nine first-quarter points and finished with eight.
For Wheeler, Elijah Staley had 14 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Kejuan Johnson added 10, and Austin Smoak had five, all in the final period.
Milton had the edge outside with five three-pointers to Wheeler’s two, both by freshman Johnson in the third quarter. The Eagles also shot free throws better, making nine of 12, while the Wildcats hit 12 of 19.
The biggest difference, however, was ball handling. The Wildcats made too many turnovers.
At least three times in the second half, Wheeler had a fast break but lost the ball, resulting in an easy basket for Milton at the other end.
The Wildcats scored the final eight points of the first quarter to lead 10-9 heading into the second quarter.
Milton surged to an 11-point lead in the second quarter and was ahead 29-20 at halftime.
Wheeler got within two points twice in the third quarter, but an 11-2 run gave Milton a 47-36 lead after three quarters.
The Wildcats got as close as four points on a Staley basket with about 90 seconds left in the game, but the Eagles hit their free throws to ensure the victory.
Milton also had a stronger free throw percentage at 85 percent to Wheeler's 62 percent.