POTW: Dontrayle Wheeler
Published 11:04 pm Monday, January 19, 2009
During his season debut Friday night, Dontrayle Wheeler’s team needed an area win in the worst way to maintain its hopes of hanging onto the No. 3 seed in the upcoming area tournament.
For a while, things looked bleak for the hometown Tigers as a less-than-stellar start had DHS on the wrong side of an early deficit. After the team cranked up the defensive intensity and clawed its way back into the game, junior Anthony Hardy’s transition dunk gave Demopolis its first lead. But the Tigers in white still lacked much-needed breathing room. Enter Wheeler.
On the ensuing possession, Wheeler briefly flashed open on the right wing, took the pass, stepped to the three-point line and unleashed a trey over the outstretched arm of a rapidly-closing Chilton defender. A split second later, the shot ripped through the twine, garnering an immediate roar from the DHS faithful and handing Demopolis a five-point lead just before the half.
In the fourth quarter, Demopolis found itself again in need of a spark. Leading only 44-43 with 5:25 remaining in the game, the Tigers had yet to score in the game’s final period.
This time, Wheeler sprinted to the left wing, pulled up and cashed in another three-point opportunity, stretching the DHS advantage to two possessions. However, the Tigers’ struggles continued. More than three minutes had passed since the Wheeler three-ball and the men in white had yet to add to their point total.
So, with 2:20 to go in the game, Wheeler picked the pocket of a Chilton ballhandler, tore down the floor and flushed the ball through the rim with an authoritative dunk that sparked a Demopolis flurry.
While Chilton went on to make another run, the brief scoring outbreak was enough to pace the home team to the win.
Wheeler finished the night with 12 points. But it isn’t the quantity of his made baskets that earned him Player of the Week honors as much as it was the quality.
Dontrayle Wheeler’s points came in the biggest moments of an inarguably big game, adding up to the sum total of a debut game that was clutch by anyone’s definition.