ALBANY -- Since Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien can't seem to pull the ratings for late night shows, Westover basketball may have the answer.
How about the Chris Wheeler Show?
The dreadlocked Patriots senior put on an entertaining bit Tuesday in a last-second, 60-58, Westover win against a lightning quick Cairo team that led by nine at halftime.
Wheeler gave the Syrupmakers headaches, scoring a career-high 32 points to go along with 12 boards. He poured in 14 of the Patriots' 19 third-quarter points by his lonesome to bring Westover (15-1, 6-1 Region 1-AAA) back from a 38-29 halftime deficit.
"It's time to go home and go to sleep," a dog-tired Wheeler said afterward. "I won't ever forget this night."
Westover senior Villus Baker pulled down a clutch rebound on a last-second miss with the game tied at 58-58 and was fouled on his putback attempt with two seconds left. Baker sank both free throws to help keep the Patriots in the hunt for first place in the region's regular season.
"(Baker) played a lot last year in the rotation and he's grown up," Westover head coach Dallis Smith said. "Free throws win ball games and those two were huge."
Wheeler hammered home a thunderous dunk with 2:14 remaining to put Westover ahead, 58-55, but Cairo wouldn't go away so easily. The Syrupmakers' cat-quick guard tandem of Jermonta Baker and Jermyrin Bodiford repeatedly answered the Patriots' comeback attempts and with 1:51 left to play, Baker got in one last parting shot.
His three clanked off the back iron and softly fell through the net to tie the game at 58-58, before Westover sat on the ball for the final 1:30. Westover's Shevren Keaton drove the lane in the final 10 seconds and missed, but Villus Baker was there for the rebound and got hacked going back up.
"They got the last rebound," Cairo head coach Isiah Chance said. "They got a second chance shot."
After trailing for the majority of the first half, Smith decided to just send it in to Wheeler, who was next to unstoppable in the paint.
"(Wheeler) played well," Chance said. "I thought we should have put a little more pressure on the passer instead of (Wheeler). The passes were getting in too easily."
Wheeler scored 20 of his 32 points in the second half and was the only Patriot to score in double figures. Anthony Ball and Malcolm Sapp each scored eight.
"(Coach Smith) saw that I had the hot hand so he told them to just get me the ball," Wheeler said. "I'm just glad we pulled through it as a team. It wasn't about me. It was about the team."
Cairo (10-4, 3-4 Region 1-AAA) was led by Baker and Bodiford, who each scored 17 points.
Westover travels to Crisp County Friday.
WESTOVER GIRLS 64, CAIRO 41:
Westover High's girls took a page out of the guys' book Tuesday, running two units for the first time this season en route to a commanding win over Cairo, which was coming off a big win over Monroe last week.
The Lady Patriots (13-3, 5-2 Region 1-AAA) played three players from its JV team, including starting Shantaria Williams and Krystyn Forehand, allowing head coach Lewis Smith to go with a rotation, which may continue if Tuesday was any indication.
"I like it," Smith said. "I think the younger girls held their own."
The Lady Pats' leading scorer, sophomore Dytiesha Dunson, had just two three points at halftime, but Westover still held a comfortable, 28-13, advantage thanks to Kahler Fletcher's perimeter shooting and Danielle Glover's inside work.
Fletcher finished with 10 points, while Glover had 14 and 10 rebounds. Dunson finished with 11.