Wheeler falls short in top 10 national showdown

Photo by Ty Freeman

Wheeler (17-2) was unable to protect its No. 3 national ranking on Monday at the Spalding HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass., and fell short 79-70 to Bishop O’Dowd (CA), the No. 10 in the nation. The annual high school showcase tipped off on Thursday and featured 28 boys and girls games that paired the best teams in the nation against each other. Wheeler’s 11 AM tipoff with the Dragons highlighted the Classic’s lineup of ML King Day games and was broadcasted live on ESPNU.

Within the out-of-state matchup were two of the top recruits in the country going head-to-head and Kentucky head coach John Calipari was one of the many college coaches sitting front row to catch it. Wheeler’s Jaylen Brown, a 6-foot-7 forward and the No. 2 prospect in the country, took the court with Bishop’s headliner Ivan Rabb. a 6-foot-10 big man and the No. 5 overall prospect in the nation. Both superstars had the hot hand and went back and forth throughout the game.

“Jaylen came out on a mission today,” said Wheeler head coach Doug Lipscomb. “He set the tone and I thought we played really well for most of the first three quarters.”

Brown netted 13 of Wheeler’s first 18 points and lifted the Wildcats to a 38-37 halftime lead with his 17 points (7-12 shooting) and six rebounds. Rabb scored eight points in the first half before really making his mark in the second half as he knocked down his first eight shot attempts. Rabb finished with 24 points to go with his 11 rebounds and five blocks.

The Dragons also got contributions from Boise State commit Paris Austin, who was able to attack the Wheeler defense in the second half. Austin drilled one of his two three pointers with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter to build a 70-61 Bishop lead. Austin finished with 18 points off 6-13 shooting and added nine assists.

Wheeler’s Shembari Phillips (Tennessee-commit) reached double-figures with 10 points and added four rebounds and four assists. Brown finished with a game-high 31 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 55 seconds left.  Wheeler returns home to face Lassiter on Wednesday.

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