A-Public Boys: Wilkinson County 71, Montgomery County 68

Wilkinson County is now 10-0 in state finals with Wednesday's 71-68 win.

Wilkinson County moved past Montgomery County 71-68 to win its third Class A-Public title in a row and remain a perfect 10-0 in finals appearances. The Warriors have won 10 in the past 19 seasons — 1999 and 2000 in Class A, 2002 in Class AA, 2007 and 2011 in Class A and 2013-14 and 2016-18 in Class A-Public.

“You would never think a poor country boy from Alamo, Georgia, would go through an experience like this,” said Wilkinson County coach Aaron Geter. “With a program like Wilkinson County, year in and year out, these kids will always have an opportunity to be successful and compete for a state championship.”

The first half was a breath of fresh air considering the blowout games that had taken place earlier in the day. Montgomery County came out firing and jumped to a 4-0 lead early on baskets by Daveaun Coglin and Jahleel Wilson. Wilkinson answered back and tied the game at 10-10 with 3:49 left in the first quarter.

Wilkinson pushed the lead to 18-13 following a five-point run with 1:40 left in the first, and with 5:28 left in the second quarter, it was up 30-21. Montgomery County then put together a run of its own to get back in the game. With 3:08 remaining, Montgomery tied the game at 30-30 on a Coglin free throw that converted a three-point play.

It was a back-and-forth game from there. Montgomery County’s largest lead was the four-point advantage early in the first, and it held the lead for 6:23. Wilkinson’s largest lead was a nine-point advantage at the 5:28 mark in the second quarter, and it held the lead for 22:05. The game was tied for 3:32.

The game was tied at 38-38 at the half with Wilkinson’s Devin Jones leading with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Wilson, who finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-22 shooting, had 14 of Montgomery’s 38 at the half.

“Well, you just hope, over time, you just try to make it tough,” Geter said of Wilson’s performance throughout his prep career. “That kid has been very good for four years. Deveaun Coglin has been very good for four years, Shaw Robinson has been very good for four years. Tonight, (Wilson) just didn’t make the plays at the time that they needed them and it allowed us to get over the hump. That’s all you can do with kids like (Wilson).”

Entering the fourth quarter, Wilkinson County was nursing a 51-49 lead and with 5:15 left, it had expanded it to 56-51. Clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch protected Wilkinson’s lead, and with 24 seconds left, Raequan Smith hit two crucial free throws to push the lead to 69-68. A quick foul later, Wilkinson sent Brandon Mays to the line and his two free throws with 10.7 forced Montgomery County to rely on a three-pointer to tie the game. The shot was in line but just short as time expired.

“When you’re playing against a program that’s hungry, it’s easy for our kids to be complacent and be satisfied with what they’ve done,” said Geter. “But I’ll take my hat off to them, they fought all year long and positioned themselves and tonight came in here and were successful.”

Jaylen Lamar led Wilkinson County in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Jones finished the game with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting with four assists. Tylan Gamble scored 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting with 14 rebounds.

“Coach always tells us to not get involved with the crowd and not to get our heads up,” said Lamar as he sat on the bench, covering his ears from the screams of the crowd he’s been trained to ignore. “We try to stay positive. That’s how we stay focused. We have a third group that gets us ready in practice and they make us work hard and when we get in a game like this, we don’t turn the ball over and we play together.”

Wilkinson might have turned the ball over more than they had liked (22 turnovers), but when it mattered, the Warriors kept the ball safe.

Montgomery County was paced by Wilson and teammate Coglin, who finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-24 shooting.

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