Sometimes greatness goes unappreciated in the present.
Miller Grove is in the midst of perhaps the most impressive championship run in the history of Georgia high school athletics. The Wolverines are now two games away from claiming their sixth consecutive state title, after Thursday night’s 67-55 win over Tucker in one Class AAAAA quarterfinal. Miller Grove will face Jenkins of Savannah in the semifinals on Saturday in Fort Valley.
Tucker (22-5), one of the best teams in the state, gave Miller Grove (26-5) all it could handle. The Tigers looked like they might be on the verge of being blown out when the Wolverines jumped out to a 14-7 lead after one quarter.
But Miller Grove showed it was not perfect when the Wolverines got a bit lackadaisical on the defensive end in the second quarter and led 27-22 at halftime.
Tucker then went on a 10-4 run to start the third quarter and claimed a 32-31 lead after a bucket by senior forward Shembari Phillips midway through the period. But that’s when Wolverine guard Alterique Gilbert stepped forward.
The 5-11 sophomore, who many think is one of the nation’s best players in the class of 2016, scored 17 of his game-high 36 points during a run that saw the Wolverines go from being tied at 32 with 1:30 left in the third quarter, to a 50-39 lead at the six minute mark of the fourth.
The scoring binge essentially ended the game as the Tigers would never get any closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“Alterique is a big time player and has been for us ever since he stepped on this court,” said Wolverine head coach Sharman White “He did what big time players do. He’s just an extraordinary player and an even better student.”
The fact that Gilbert’s teammates allowed him to go off unimpeded shows just how dangerous they are as a team. Though the roster is filled with players who could carry a team – like seniors Keith Pinckney and James Walker, who scored 12 and 13 points, respectively – they all defer to the hot player. Thursday night, it was Gilbert’s turn.
“When you have great guard play like we do, sometimes you just have to let those guys be maestros and do what they do,” White said. “One of our coaches wanted to call a play, but I wanted to let them play, especially because they were in good [offensive] flow, and they were defending.”