The Wheeler Wildcats (24-7) moved into the latest Max Preps Top 25 high school basketball rankings this week for the first time this season. On the heels of a 60-59 victory over then-No. 2 Grayson in the Georgia 7A state finals, the Wildcats come in at No. 24. Grayson (30-2), who had been ranked most of the season in the top ten, fell out of the Top 25 and into the Next Five coming in at No. 26.
Wheeler, a blue blood program in Georgia with seven state titles, may have pulled an upset but they were not a weak team. The Wildcats had quality in-state victories over Grayson (1-1), Pebblebrook (2-1; 7A Sweet 16 loss to Grayson), East Coweta (7A Sweet 16), St. Francis (1A-Private State Champion), Milton (1-1; 7A Final Four), Shiloh (7A Sweet 16), Dutchtown (5A State Champion), Heritage (GISA 3A State Champion), Lanier (6A Finalist), Newton (7A Elite 8) and Kell (5A semifinalist)-all of which advanced to at least the second round. Wheeler only played three OOS games this season, a very low number by Wheeler standards, going 1-2 at the Kreul Classic with a victory over West Nassau (FL) (14-2) and losses to Deerfield Beach (FL) (15-8; 1st Rd exit in 7A state tournament) and Forest Hill (FL) (28-3; 7A Final Four). Wheeler’s OOS schedule proved to be weak overall.
Wheeler and Grayson split their two meetings this season with Grayson winning by five at Wheeler and Wheeler winning by one on a neutral floor. Grayson lost their two games by a combined five points, their only other loss was at region opponent Newton, who reached the 7A quarterfinals, 84-80 in overtime. Grayson defeated Newton 86-39 and 82-58 in their next two meetings this season to win the season series handily 2-1.
Grayson, who went into the fall trying to fill their schedule, had quality in-state wins over Berkmar (7A Elite 8), Milton (7A Final Four) , Pebblebrook (2x; 7A Sweet 16), Wheeler (1-1; 7A State Champion), Sandy Creek (4A Elite 8), Mountain Brook (AL) (7A Finalist), Memphis East (TN), McEachern (2x; 7A Final Four), Lithonia (5A Elite 8), Newton (2-1; 7A Elite 8), Archer (2x; 7A 1st Rd), Shiloh (3x; 7A Sweet 16) and Norcross (7A Elite 8). Grayson went 5-0 in OOS play defeating Crestwood Prep (Canada), Ramsay (AL; 5A Final Four), Wayne (OH; D1 District Semifinal exit), Memphis East (TN) and Mountain Brook (AL; 7A Finalist). Overall Grayson had some holes to fill in their schedule and though they went undefeated in OOS games, the OOS was not as strong as it could have been.
Wheeler and Grayson both showed that Georgia basketball as a whole is brutal night in and night out but that scheduling must improve across the board both in-state and with out-of-state quality competition. Neither is likely to be invited to GEICO Nationals. Grayson had the inside track until the one-point loss in the finals and still has a strong case based on their overall body of work but was it strong enough? If you saw Grayson play this year multiple times that should give you your answer, Yes.
On the girls side Westlake (30-2) moves up four spots from No.18 to No.14 in the latest girls Max Preps Top 25 high school basketball rankings. Westlake defeated Collins Hill (31-1) in the 7A state finals to become the first team since McEachern (2014-2017) to win three straight state titles in the highest classification in Georgia. Westlake went 24-0 against Georgia teams and 6-2 against OOS teams. The losses were to No.11 Paul VI (VA) and Centennial (NV). Westlake is in line to play in the GEICO Nationals, which have been moved from New York, New York to Dorman, South Carolina because of the coronavirus outbreak. Westlake last played in the GEICO Nationals in 2018.