North Gwinnett beats Wheeler 70-68 in overtime on freshman’s layup

Kamaran Calhoun, a freshman without a basket until 2 seconds left, scored the game-winner on a layup in overtime Wednesday as North Gwinnett defeated Wheeler 70-68 in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

North Gwinnett (21-9) advanced to quarterfinals for the first time since 2004, when North Gwinnett upset defending champion Wheeler in the first round.

Wheeler had eliminated North Gwinnett from the state playoffs three times since 2002, including a 23-point win in the 2011 first round.

‘’We came down here last year and got it handed to us, so this feels good,’’ said North Gwinnett senior A.J. Clements, who scored 17 points and made the drive and pass to Calhoun at the end. “We beat one of the top teams in the state.”

Chris Bolden, a Georgia Tech-signee, scored 30 points, including five in overtime, but the guard fouled out with 51 seconds left. Wheeler’s Jacob Obande made the resulting two free throws for a 68-68 tie.

Without Bolden, North Gwinnett played for the final shot, with Clements running the offense and Calhoun making the decisive basket.

“We practice last-second shots all the time and layups with contact,’’ Calhoun said. “I took the contact and finished.’’

It was Calhoun who made a crucial foul at the end of regulation that gave Wheeler a chance to tie for overtime.

In regulation, Wheeler led 58-56 when North Gwinnett’s Tobias Howard, another freshman, hit a 3 for a 59-58 lead.

North Gwinnett’s Kwesi Abakah then made a block on Wheeler’s 6-foot-9 Chuck Mitchell (12 points, 11 rebounds) on a drive to the basket, and North Gwinnett made two free throws for a 61-58 lead.

But Wheeler got another chance when Mitchell missed the second of two free throws, and Wheeler wound up with the ball again when the rebound went out of bounds. Calhoun, fearing an open 3, fouled on the inbound pass, and Obande (13 points) made two free throws with 4 seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime.

It was one of a couple of Wheeler rallies. The Wildcats trailed by five with 3:30 left in regulation and by four in overtime, each time getting back even.

But it was North Gwinnett that made the play in the end in a game that matched teams that had spent most of the season in the Top 10.

‘’Our kids played hard and didn’t quit,’’ Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said, whose team finished 17-11 and failed to make the quarters for only the ninth time in Lipscomb’s 21 seasons. “It came down to one play, and the kid made it.’’

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