MARIETTA -- In a moment where victory seemed to slip away from Shiloh, one play changed the course of fate as Shiloh upended Wheeler to take a 68-66 win, in a game where neither team had a lead of more than six points.
The matchup between the top two teams in Class AAAAA lived up to its billing as the teams were tied at 66 with 13.5 second to go in the game.
A miscue on the inbounds pass after a basket by Wheeler's Derrick Evans turned the ball back over to Wildcats, giving them a chance to win the game. However, Shiloh's Jordan Gaither wouldn't let that happen as he stole the ensuing inbounds pass and took it to the rim for a layup, getting fouled in the process.
"When I saw him make the move, I knew he would inbound it deep," Gaither said. "I anticipated the pass and knew where it was going. I wasn't expecting for it to happen like that, but defense is what wins you games."
Gaither missed the free throw and the No. 2 Generals set up for one last defensive stand. Wheeler was able to penetrate into the key with under five seconds to go, but Robert Carter blocked the shot out of bounds with 2.1 seconds left, giving the No. 1 Wildcats one more chance to win or tie the game. However, Shiloh would have none of it as the final shot went off the back iron, giving the Generals one of their biggest wins ever.
"We're trying to get our program to the level of the Wheeler's and the Norcross'," Shiloh head coach Kim Rivers said. "To beat Wheeler on the road, in a hostile environment, is probably the biggest win in school history. I'm so proud of our guys."
Shiloh (7-0) was energized early as Kyle Lewis scored 11 of the team's first 16 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead the Generals to a 20-19 lead after the first quarter.
"Kyle was hurting a little bit before the game, but once he made those first two shots, I knew he was good," Rivers said. "We've been known to start games a little slow, so it was a nice boost."
Wheeler (4-3) was able to start the second quarter on a 9-2 run, working the ball inside and rebounding its missed shots.
Shiloh got to within 28-26 when Bryan Thompson got two-straight baskets underneath. Gaither's steal and lay-up tied the game at 30 with 2:34 to go before halftime.
The teams continued to go back-and-forth through the end of the quarter, with Wheeler taking a 38-36 lead at halftime.
The Generals took their first lead of the second half when Trayvon Reed, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds, had a layup off a missed shot by Wheeler. Reed later slammed the ball home on an assist by Gaither to give the Generals a 47-45 lead.
By the end of the third quarter, the teams were back to square one, tied at 51.
In the fourth quarter, Shiloh pushed its lead out to three points on a 3-pointer by Carter (19 points, 10 rebounds), then again on a dunk by Reed.
With 2:25 to go in the fourth, Lewis got a layup and free throw after he was fouled to put the Generals up 64-60.
However, David Lipscomb's 3-pointer brought the Wildcats back to within one point, setting up an exciting final two minutes in which the Shiloh defense prevailed.
"The defense responded," Rivers said. "We've still got some things to work on, but overall, I'm happy with the way we're playing."
Gaither finished the game with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Lewis had 14 points and four rebounds.
For Wheeler, Derrick Evans had 14 points, while Jacob Obande had 13 points and four steals.