On Tuesday night, mayhem will ensue in the North Atlanta suburb of east Cobb.
Traditional rivals Walton and Wheeler will do battle on the hardwood for the second time this season in a game that will webcasted on GPB.org. The grudgematch represents the first GPB basketball webcast of the season and will feature two Class 5A tradition-rich boys teams. Doug Lipscomb’s No. 2 Wildcats (13-4) will try to sweep the regular season series from Walton (10-6) on the road.
“They beat us once already, so we want to even the score,” said Raiders head coach Joe Goydish.
That may be more difficult than it seems for Walton, who lost the previous meeting this season on Dec. 10 by a score of 92-86. The Wildcats, a perennial state power, have won state titles in 1994, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2009 under the leadership of Lipscomb while the Raiders are still searching for their first. Wheeler has not lost a regular season game to a Georgia team since falling to Campbell on Jan. 14 of 2010. And aide from an 82-81 win in 2009, Walton has not defeated their arch rivals in recent years.
“Over the past three to four years, (the series) has been more competitive,” said Goydish. “Before that, Wheeler had really great teams and we weren’t quite as good. But it was a still a big rivalry game”
It is assured that Walton’s gym will be full before the end of the girls game and a packed house will once again be in attendance for Wheeler-Walton basketball. In fact, out of all the programs in the state, these two may just have the most spirited students.
“It should be a fantastic high school atmosphere,” said Goydish. “The two students sections are some of the best around.”
The teams are also two of the best around. The two programs have churned out college talent in droves in recent years. The Raiders have seen former players like Glen Rice, Jr (Georgia Tech) Ryan Harrow (NC State), Matt Babcock (Arizona), and Kevin Kruger (Ariz St/UNLV) play for major colleges while Wheeler grads like DeQuan Jones (Miami), Antwuan Dixon (FSU), J.J. Hickson (NC State), Jermareo Davison (Alabama) and Sharaud Curry (Providence) have all made their mark on the college basketball scene.
This year’s squads also boast some serious cache. Nigel Snipes (Western Kentucky) and K.K. Simmons (UNC-Wilmington) are already set on their college destination while junior forward Charles Mitchell is a hot commodity in the 2012 class.
“Mitchell is an excellent rebounder and a hustler,” said Wildcats head coach Doug Lipscomb.
Goydish agreed that Mitchell can be a force in the middle. “We think we can match up everywhere except with Mitchell,” he said. “But we have faced some seven-footers and a couple 6-10 guys and done well.”
And, despite the matchup issue and their lack of recent success against Wheeler, Goydish and company will be confident come Tuesday night.
“If we played 10 times, I think we would win five,” he said.
The Raiders are coming off a defeat of Seattle powerhouse Rainier Beach at the Marriott Invitational at Norcross Friday night before getting upset Saturday by Class 4A Pope in what may be referred to as the proverbial "sandwich game". But, rest assured, Walton will come into the Wheeler game firing on all cylinders.
Meanwhile, Wheeler defeated region-foe Woodstock Friday, but struggled a bit in doing so. On Saturday, Lipscomb’s bunch beat Centennial 72-59.
Knowing this rivalry, the girls game will be as intense and highly competitive as the boys game. The Lady Raiders are 9-6 and are coming off a 55-42 win at Pope. Walton beat the Lady Wildcats (6-7) in the previous matchup this season 48-42 at Wheeler.