Whitefield Academy brought the 2012 state Class A title and precocious freshman Brendon Myles to the gym, but No. 6 W.D. Mohammed had the elders Saturday and the Caliphs rode their upperclassmen to a 49-44 overtime win at Crim High.
Just 21 seconds into overtime, WDM’s Muhammad Hamilton hit two free throws after a controversial play to give the Caliphs (24-2) the lead for good. Hamilton, a junior, scored 16 points. All other WDM points were scored by seniors as the Caliphs unseated the champs.
WDM, ranked No. 1 a couple weeks ago before being upset by Landmark Christian in the Region 5 tournament, was in control at halftime with a 22-14 lead.
The Caliphs turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the third quarter, however, and Myles hit back-to-back 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 18 points. The Wolfpack (18-11) closed the quarter with another trey, when junior Everett Pollard hit a 40-footer off an inbounds pass at the buzzer for a 32-30 lead.
WDM had five turnovers in the quarter, three on offensive fouls. “Just be aggressive,” WDM coach Farad Abdur-Rahman said. “I tell my boys, ‘Whatever you do, just do it hard.’ “
Whitefield lost UGA signee Kenneth Gaines from last year’s title team, and assistant coach Eddie James served as interim head coach this season while head coach Tyrone Johnson – winner of three state titles – is on a one year leave of absence from the Mableton school.
The Wolfpack have only one senior, yet they made the Caliphs earn their way into the state quarterfinals.
“They won the championship last year so you know they’re going to bring everything they got,” Abdur-Rahman said of Whitefield. “They’re a great defensive team. Their coach is great. So I expected a little bit of a step up as far as intensity is concerned.”
Including Pollard’s buzzer beater, there were four ties and four lead changes leading up to overtime, including a 3-pointer from Whitefield sophomore Norman Harris for a 39-37 lead with 3:36 left in regulation off a slick pass from junior Eric Lockett.
The Caliphs appeared to be in good shape when senior guard Jihad Hameen drove the left baseline and banked a shot off the glass for a 41-39 lead with 35 seconds left in regulation.
Matters looked better still when Hamilton stripped Lockett on a drive with about 18 seconds left in regulation and the Wolfpack fouled to send the Caliphs to the line. There, senior Joel Nuridiin hit a free throw for a 42-39 lead with 15.3 seconds on the clock.
The second one looked good, too, but a lane violation was called against the Caliphs. That was not the last time a whistle would come up big.
Myles’ long trey from the top of the circle with 1.7 seconds left forced overtime.
Barely into bonus ball, the 6-foot-5 Lockett – who scored seven of his 11 points in the first half – was called for a foul while chasing a would-be offensive rebound that caromed left of the goal and toward the Whitefield bench.
Lockett is not listed as the Wolfpack’s point guard, but James put the ball in his hands almost exclusively down the stretch. There wasn’t much question that he fouled a WDM player on this play.
There was a big question as to whether that was foul number five.
“When a guy has fouled out, you have 30 seconds to get a sub in. I didn’t think he had fouled out because our guy with the book as well as the iPad were confirming a fourth foul,” James said. “I never even was told [by officials], ‘This guy is out.’ I walked away because I knew I was due to be told if a player has fouled out.”
The result was a technical foul, and Hamilton made both shots with 3:39 left in overtime for a 44-42 WDM lead.
Nuridiin added a shot shot about a minute later, and although Myles hit a jumper in the middle of the lane to pull Whitefield within 46-44 with about a minute left, the Caliphs hit three more free throws to close it out.
“I think everybody wants a blowout,” Hameen said, “but tight games like this bring us together as a team.”
W.D. Mohammed 49, Whitefield Academy 44 (OT)
W.D. Mohammed (49) — Yusef Muhammad 2; Majid Omar 5; Hussein Clark 6; Jihad Hameen 12; Muhammad Hamilton 16; Joel Nuridiin 8.
Whitefield Academy (44) — Eric Lockett 11; Jesse Byrd; Norman Harris 7; Braelen Phillips; Everett Pollard 8; Brendon Myles 18. Halftime: W.D. Mohammed 22, Whitefield 14.