MACON – Jaylen Brown, the nation’s top recruit, is expected to have many shining moments at the next level. But it’ll be hard to top the one he delivered Saturday in the Class AAAAAA state championship game.
Brown hit two free throws with 0.5 seconds to play, lifting Wheeler to a 59-58 win over Pebblebrook in a thriller Saturday at the Macon Coliseum.
Pebblebrook junior point guard Jared Harper made one of two free throws with 7.8 seconds left to put the Falcons ahead 58-57.
After a timeout, Wheeler advanced the ball to halfcourt and called another timeout with 4.5 seconds left. Shembari Phillips inbounded the ball to Makhai Eastmond, who found Brown on the wing. Brown drove to his left and was fouled by Pebblebrook’s Derek Ogbeide on a bang-bang play that could have gone either way. Brown crumbled to the court, before limping to the foul line to hit the winning free throws.
He made all six of his free throw attempts in the final two minutes to help Wheeler win its sixth state championship and first since 2009.
“I just told (Brown), ‘You got this,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said.
"There was no doubt in my mind I was going to make them," Brown said.
These two Cobb County schools met in the semifinals last season, with Wheeler pulling away from Pebblebook in the second half for a 67-52 win. The Wildcats couldn’t put away the Falcons on Saturday, though, and headed to the fourth quarter clinging to a 44-43 lead.
After playing from behind for the majority of the game, Pebblebrook took its first lead since the first quarter on a baseline jumper by Kevin Murph with 5:40 to play. A putback by Ogbeide pushed the lead to 55-50 with four minutes left.
Brown finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, despite being saddled with foul trouble. Brown picked up his third foul with 3:35 left in the second quarter and spent the rest of the half on the bench. Brown fouled out in last year’s loss to Tift County in the state championship game.
Even with their star in foul trouble, the Wildcats took a 28-25 lead into the locker room, after a back-and-forth first half that saw both teams struggle offensively. Pebblebrook shot 32.0 percent from the floor. Wheeler wasn’t much better at 35.7 percent.
Next-level talent was all over the floor. Phillips, who’s headed to Tennessee, matched up against Pebblebrook point guard Ty Hudson, who’s signed with Clemson. Ogbeide, a Georgia signee, had two emphatic blocks to early in the third quarter that ignited a Falcons’ run.
Brown has not made his college choice yet, but has offers from all the biggest programs in college basketball.
Hudson led the Falcons with 19 points, and Ogbeide finished with 14 points and three blocks. Pebblebrook set a school record with 27 wins, but needed one more to earn the school's first state championship in a boys sports.
"We accomplished a lot," an emotional Washington said.
Phillips finished with 17 points, joining Brown as the only Wildcats in double figures.
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