Late push not enough for Dacula against Wheeler

MARIETTA -- If the Dacula boys had started the game the way they finished, the fans at Lipscomb Gymnasium might have witnessed quite an upset.

Unfortunately, the Falcons were outscored by Wheeler 24-8 in the first quarter Wednesday night, and the Wildcats went on to win the first-round AAAAAA playoff game 71-56.

Wheeler attacked from the opening tip, with an alley-oop from Avery Patterson to Jaylen Brown beginning the scoring. The Wildcats (19-8) started the game on a 14-0 run before Dacula senior Brandon Goodson hit a 3-pointer to end the Falcons' drought.

Wheeler had the momentum and players with the talent to impress University of Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, who was in attendance.

From the second quarter and on, however, Dacula (19-8) showed it could play with the Region 5-AAAAAA champions. The Falcons held the Wildcats to only 11 points in the second frame.

"We started to come back," Dacula coach Russ Triaga said. "We got to halftime down 17, but I knew there were a bunch of possessions left in the game. So for as bad as we played, I thought we could start making some shots."

That's exactly what Dacula did to begin the second half.

The Falcons started the third quarter on a 11-3 run to cut the Wheeler lead to nine points. The closest Dacula got was within seven with three minutes remaining in the quarter.

"That was really our chance," Triaga said. "What really hurt us was we needed free throws. I think we missed them at key points. With a team like Wheeler, if you're chasing them and chasing them, they're going to start to score."

The Falcons did not reach the free throw line in the third quarter and only went 8-for-14 from the charity stripe in the game.

"I'm proud of our guys for fighting as hard as they did," Triaga said. "We scored 38 points in the second half, and I really felt like we could have done that in the first half. We were just in slow motion in the first half. When you get behind like that, it's just a scramble."

Seniors Jaylen Williams (22 points) and Brandon Goodson (18 points) led the way for Dacula. The two combined to hit 10 3-pointers in the game.

"Brandon Goodson's played over 100 varsity games," Triaga said. "He knows how these things go. He knows a game's not over until it actually is over. He did a great job in the game and throughout his career. What more can you say?"

Freshman Kevon Tucker added eight points for Dacula. Elijah Stanley and Jaylen Brown each scored 15 to lead Wheeler, which will host Meadowcreek on Saturday.