Westlake players celebrate their victory during 2020 GHSA State Basketball Class Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Saturday, March 7, 2020. Westlake won 72-53 over Collins Hill. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Class AAAAAAA blog: Wheeler, Westlake enrich their traditions

Wheeler’s boys and Westlake’s girls basketball teams added to their legacies as state basketball powers this season in Class AAAAAAA by winning championships last week in Macon.

Here are some facts and plaudits about each.

First, Wheeler ...

*Wheeler defeated No. 1-ranked Grayson 60-59 on Saturday night as Sam Hines Jr. scored 28 points. Hines’ performance was one of the best individual-game efforts in state finals history as he was 11-of-12 from the field, made six of eight free throws, grabbed nine rebounds and made two steals. Hines has signed with the University of Denver.

*Wheeler became the first boys program in modern GHSA history to win seven state titles in the highest classification. Southwest-Macon had won six, the most recent in 1989. Lanier and Savannah have more state titles, but most of those occurred prior to 1950.Wheeler’s first state title was won in 1994. The others came in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2015, all coached by Doug Lipscomb, for whom Wheeler’s original gym is named.

*This title was unexpected. Wheeler had seven regular-season losses and was ranked No. 6 entering the state tournament. Almost every other Wheeler championship team has had a Power Five Conference signee. The 1994 team was led by Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the 2015 team by Jaylen Brown. Both went on to the NBA. Other teams have had Ari Stewart of Southern Cal and Richard Howell of N.C. State (2009), Sharaud Curry of Providence (2005) and Jermareo Davidson of Alabama (2003).

*Larry Thompson, hired at Wheeler in 2018, won his third state title. More than 30 boys head coaches in Georgia have done that, but only seven of those have won titles at two schools. Thompson coached Greenforest Christian’s Class A private-school champions in 2016 and 2017. Thompson, Buford’s Eddie Martin and Pace Academy’s Sharman White are the only ones to win boys state titles as public and private schools.

Now, Westlake ...

*Westlake defeated previously unbeaten Collins Hill 72-53 as Raven Johnson scored 23 points and had four assists and six rebounds.  TaNiya Latson also scored 23 in the win. Westlake’s average margin of victory in the state tournament was 28 points. 

*Johnson, a junior who has started on each of the three state-championship teams, strengthened her case for statewide player of the year. She finished this season averaging 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 4.2 steals. She’s rated the 13th junior prospect nationally by ESPN.

*Westlake has won three straight state titles and 78 straight games against Georgia opponents. 

&Westlake is the fourth girls program to win three state titles in the highest class joining McEachern (2014-17), Lowndes (1977-80) and Morrow (1989-91). Hilda Hankerson joined the list of coaches with three state titles.

*Westlake now stands at No. 18 in the MaxPreps’ writers poll called the Xcellent 25. No other Georgia team is ranked. 

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