Class 6A boys final: Wheeler 71, Kell 61

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.

When Wheeler won the state basketball championship last year, the rising senior class approached coach Larry Thompson and expressed a determination to win it again. On Friday night they made the wish come true, defeating Kell 71-61 for the Class 6A championship.

“It means a lot because the whole season we’ve been playing hard,” said Jahiem Hudson, one of four seniors in the starting lineup. “We just had to get a back-to-back. It feels good.”

It was the eighth state championship for the Wildcats, who won the Class 7A crown last year before dropping a level during reclassification.

“It’s special for the guys,” Thompson said. “These kids came to work every single day. After they won the first one last year, the guys who were going to be seniors wanted to do it again … and now we’re here.”

It wasn’t easy. It was the fourth time Wheeler and Kell had tangled this season. Wheeler won the two regular-season meetings, but Kell prevailed in overtime to win the Region 6 championship. Each one was like a 12-round fight.

“This game was real personal,” Hudson said.

The Wildcats built a 10-point lead early in the second quarter and had a 31-23 advantage at halftime. Kell made several runs in the second half, but never got any closer than six points. The Longhorns were forced to start fouling in the fourth quarter, but that strategy didn’t work; Wheeler was 11-for-18 at the line, just enough to keep Kell at bay.

“Those guys are tough,” Thompson said. “They don’t ever give up. To beat our region foe for a state championship … I wouldn’t pick any other team to play. They’re worthy to be champions, and we had to go through them.”

The Wheeler defensive effort was rock solid, especially in the first half. They held Kell to 39.3% shooting from the floor and 23.6% on 3-pointers.

“The defense was amazing to start the game,” Thompson said. “Our motto is 12 points per quarter, and we held them to 23 in the first half. I think that’s what jump-started us in the second half.”

Wheeler (27-3) had four players score in double figures – Isaiah Collier with 16, Kaleb Washington, Maxwell Harris and Hudson with 12 points. Hudson also had 12 rebounds.

Kell (21-7) got 29 points from Scoota Henderson, who also had 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Jaylen Harris scored 22.

“We know (Henderson) is a big-time scorer. He’s going to be a pro. We know that,” Thompson said. “We just wanted to make sure Harris didn’t get off. He’s the one that’s been hurting us. Kudos to our guys for accepting the challenge.”

*

Wheeler – 33-9-28-33- 71

Kell – 17-6-17-21-61

Wheeler: Jahiem Hudson 12, Isaiah Collier 16, Khedric Oliver 6, Kaleb Washington 12, Maxwell Harris 12, A.J. Burke 3, Juvon Gamory 8, Jamill Giles 2.

Kell: Scoota Henderson 29, Najhae Colon 7, Aaron Smith 6, Jaylen Harris 11, Tre Allen 2, Jaylen Colon 2, Elliott Hearst 2, Dylan Cambridge 2.