Miller Grove coach Sharman White and his basketball team know a little something about dealing with pressure.
The Wolverines earlier this season were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation among high school boys’ basketball teams by ESPN and other news outlets.
They are trying to become the first DeKalb County school to win four straight state basketball championships—the Southwest DeKalb girls won three straight Class AAAA titles from 2009-11.
Another championship will make Miller Grove the first team in the state to win four in a row since Westover did it 1990-93.
The Wolverines have endured a brutal schedule that featured several of the top 50 teams in the county and national exposure with three televised games on ESPN.
And last week in the Region 6-AAAA tournament, White saw how his team responded with its leader, All-American Tony Parker, rendered useless with foul trouble. Parker, who averages 17.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, was held scoreless in the Wolverines’ 58-47 win over Marist in the semifinals.
“This team has had to deal with more adversity from a winning and losing standpoint than the other three teams, and that could play to our favor in the state tournament,” White said. “They’ve had more to contend with and more pressure than any other team.”
The Wolverines enter the AAAA state tournament at 19-9, having endured a five-game losing streak against national competition in December and January. Miller Grove takes an 11-game winning streak into its first-round game Feb. 23 against New Manchester.
“To win three straight state championships and have what some consider to be the toughest schedule in America is a lot to be on 17- and 18-year-old kids,” White said. “They had a lot of media attention with three nationally televised games. I’m very proud of the way they handled themselves. We’re locked in on one goal and that’s to win another state championship.”
White saw his team come together in the region tournament, a place where it stumbled last season, losing in the championship game. Christian Houston put together back-to-back 23-point games in the semifinals and finals, and the Wolverines also got strong showings from Brandon Morris, Tony Evans and Justin Colvin. Parker also had an impact, grabbing 18 rebounds in two quarters in the quarterfinals, then getting 14 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Southwest DeKalb in the region championship game.
Morris and Parker, with 127 blocked shots between them, are a force close to the basket. Morris is averaging 10 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Houston has become one of the top guards in the county, averaging three steals and 5.2 assists per game.
“I like where we are now,” White said. “This team had to find its own identity. Once we started jelling, things started falling into place.
“In addition to Tony [Parker], we’ve still got some really great players who have bought into our program,” White said. “They’ve been able to rise up and step into the gap. That’s what we ask everybody to do.”
If the Wolverines can do that five times in a row over the next two weeks, they will earn a place in history with their fourth straight state championship.