Wheeler has a pair of Southern Cal signees in 6’4 senior Isaiah Collier, one of the leading candidates for top player in the national 2023 Class and 6’9 senior Arrinten Page. Tampa Catholic has uber-junior Karter Knox, but he will get a lot of help from 6’4 senior Eddrin Bronson and 6’0 sophomore Isaiah Campbell-Finch.
Wheeler struck first with a quick dunk inside by Page. A three from Catholic’s 6’2 junior Christian Cole got the Crusaders on the board and one possession later Campbell-Finch was fouled on a three-point attempt to give Catholic a 6-2 lead. Wheeler than ran off six straight points, the last on a drive by Collier to take its first lead of the game. Knox hit a three for Catholic but their lead was short-lived after a putback by Wheeler’s 6’10 junior Josh Hill. Catholic came right back as Bronson hit a three, Knox put back a rebound and Bronson scored from mid-range to make the score 16-10 in favor of Tampa Catholic with just over two minutes left to play in the period. Collier finally broke the Wheeler drought but Anthony Jackson of Catholic, a 6’3 sophomore, hit a three to put Catholic up 19-12 after one period of play.
Wheeler got a bucket inside from 6’4 junior Rickey McKenzie to start the second quarter but another three from Jackson increased Tampa Catholic’s lead. From there, the Tampa Catholic lead would fluctuate between six and eight points. With just under four minutes to go Catholic led 30-24. At that point, McKenzie of Wheeler converted a three-point play to get them to within three, 27-24. The Wheeler run didn’t last long, as Knox went on a personal 7-0 run to push the margin to ten, 34-24, with just under three minutes to go. Wheeler got the margin down to seven, but at the end of the quarter, Catholic led by eight, 39-31.
Wheeler scored four quick points to cut the margin in half. After two free throws from Knox of Tampa Catholic, McKenzie hit a three for Wheeler to make it a three-point game at 41-38. Once again, Tampa Catholic put together a run, scoring seven straight points to get their lead back up to ten, 48-38 with just under five minutes to go in the third. Wheeler kept coming, outscoring Tampa Catholic the rest of the quarter, 12-5, to head into the final period down by just three, 53-50.
In a bit of a shock, Wheeler started the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run behind the play of Collier and Page. The Wildcats had turned a ten-point deficit midway thru the third period into a ten-point lead, 63-53, with just over five minutes left in the game. Tampa Catholic didn’t fold and answered with an 8-2 run to get back to within four at 65-61 with two minutes left. Wheeler fought that off, scoring four straight points to make the score 69-61 with a minute to play. Tampa Catholic scored one final bucket to make the final score 69-63 in favor of Wheeler.
Page and Collier each scored 16 points to lead Wheeler. Jelani Hamilton, a 6’5 senior, added 11 points and 6’5 senior Damion Mitchell scored 10 points.
Catholic had 22 points for Tampa Catholic while 6’2 junior Michael Drayton added 11 points and Bronson tossed in 10 points.