Class 6A blog: Wheeler, Buford boys lead pack of contenders

The Wheeler boys celebrate winning the 2021 Class 6A championship over rival Kell on March 12, 2021.

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The Wheeler boys celebrate winning the 2021 Class 6A championship over rival Kell on March 12, 2021.

The Wheeler and Buford boys basketball teams have established themselves as top contenders for the Class 6A title this season, and they put on a preview of what could be a late playoff matchup when they met Tuesday night in the Tournament of Champions.

Wheeler, the No. 2 team in the most recent 6A rankings, got the better of the top-ranked Wolves this time, beating Buford 69-64 in their bracket final at the two-day holiday event hosted by Wheeler. The Wildcats improved to 8-3 overall with their fifth consecutive victory. Wheeler defeated Class 4A No. 4 Fayette County 77-48 on Monday.

Isaiah Collier led the way against the Wolves with 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. The 6-foot-3 point guard is the No. 19 player nationally among juniors in the 247Sports Composite rankings, as well as the No. 5 point guard nationally and the top player in Georgia.

Kyle Burns, a Radford signee, had 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers. Arrinten Page, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, had 16 points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots and two 3-pointers.

Wheeler has won eight state championships, including 2021 in Class 6A and 2020 in 7A.

Buford fell to 10-2 with the loss, which ended an eight-game winning streak. Jaylon Taylor, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, led the Wolves with 18 points against Wheeler. Junior point guard Malachi Brown and senior guard Alahn Sumler had 17 points each. Sumler scored 23 points in an 82-72 victory over Cumberland Christian the previous night.

Here’s a look at some of the other top contenders in Class 6A heading into the 2022 portion of the schedule:

*Osborne: The third-ranked Cardinals, who share Region 6 with Wheeler, have been among the state’s most improved teams, sitting at 8-0 after going 8-14 last season. Leading the way for the Cardinals is 6-foot-3 guard Zocko Littleton, an Appalachian State signee and all-state candidate who averaged 19 points per game last season. Osborne plays Wheeler on Feb. 4 (away) and Feb. 9 (home).

*Shiloh: The fourth-ranked Generals lost to eventual state runner-up Kell in the second round last season, and they appear headed for bigger things this season with an 11-0 start. Trevon Payton, a 6-5 senior forward, is averaging 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds ad 2.8 assists. Shiloh, in Region 8 with Buford, will face the Wolves on Jan. 18 at home and in the regular-season finale at Buford on Feb. 11.

*Kell: The Longhorns, the state runners-up last season, remain a top-10 team despite the loss of Scoot Henderson, a five-star guard who passed up his senior season to join the G League. The Longhorns will head into 2022 with a 5-5 record against a difficult schedule. Kell is coming off back-to-back loss to Windsor Forest and Pinson Valley (Ala.) in this week’s Champions Classic.

*Statesboro: The Blue Devils, No. 7 in the most recent Score Atlanta rankings, are the highest-rated Class 6A team outside of metro Atlanta. They will try to become the first non-Atlanta area team to win in the second-highest classification since Brunswick in 2015 (and just the second since 2001). Statesboro is 11-0 after a 73-60 victory over Class A Public No. 2 Portal in a tournament Thursday.

*Others to watch: Centennial, a semifinalist last season, is 10-1 after a 65-58 loss to Parkview on Dec. 18 but heads into the new year tied with Chattahoochee for first place in Region 7. … Westlake is 8-1 since a 1-3 start and is the only remaining unbeaten team (4-0) in Region 4 play. … Alexander, an 11-15 team last season, is 8-1 overall and the only remaining unbeaten team (2-0) in Region 5 play. Zion Fruster is averaging 16 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.6 steals. … Grovetown lost to Sequoyah 67-64 at the Tournament of Champions but rebounded with a 59-40 victory over Trinity Christian to improve to 12-3. Frankquon Sherman averages 16 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists.