Reigning City of Palms champ Wheeler survives Wesleyan in first tourney game

FORT MYERS, Fla. — No. 21 Wheeler (Marietta) came out unselfishly distributing the ball, but unfortunately a lot of those passes ended up in the hands of Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) defenders.

Once the Wildcats got down to the business of trying to defend their title in the City of Palms Classic, Al Wajid-Aminu and Darius Perry each had 18 points to pace them to a 64-58 defeat of Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) Friday in the opening game of the tournament.

Aminu, a transfer from Coral Gables, Fla., and a North Florida signee, scored 13 of his points in the second half.

“Honestly, I think it was just a matter of just getting the jitters out,” Aminu said. “We had good defense going in, but we weren’t finishing and we weren’t executing correctly. Once we picked it up and felt the intensity, we started to make baskets.”

Aminu didn’t play on last year’s state championship team for Wheeler but knows even without American Family Insurance ALL-USA forward Jaylen Brown (now at Cal), expectations are high for Wheeler.

“Any time you’re ranked in the country, you have a target on your back,” Aminu said. “We will start doing better and once we do, we can do great things.”

Aminu hit all five of his second-half shots, including an ugly one-handed fadeway in traffic.

“I was just feeling it, I guess,” Aminu said. “It felt good when it went off and when it went in, I was excited.”

The Wildcats (6-1) had 18 turnovers in the game, but were better able to utilize their fast pace in the second half, shooting 53.5% compared to 40% in the first half.

“Things happened and some of those were to our advantage and sometimes not,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said.

Brandon Childress led Wesleyan (9-2) with 19 points and kept Wheeler from pulling away until late.

“He hit very big shots,” Lipscomb said.

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