It is probably an intimidating sight for a visiting basketball team to walk into Wilkinson County’s Palace and look up to the banners hanging from the ceilings. It shows right away that the Warriors have lost only 36 games during the past 14 years.
It got even worse for the visiting team Wednesday when the game started as Wilkinson County hit five- 3-pointers before Landmark Christian could blink. The Warriors coasted to a 61-40 win, keyed by a 20-7 first quarter, to move into the quarterfinals of the GHSA Class A playoffs and keep alive their hopes for a second straight state championship. Freshman Rico Simmons had six 3s on his way to a 25-point night, and Denzel Council had 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots to help give the Warriors their 29th win of the season.
“We don’t care who scores the points as long as we get the win,” Council said. “Things pretty much went our way early in the game, and we felt good at halftime. We feel like we will always be ready for anything that comes our way in the second half because we work as hard or harder than any other team.”
It almost felt like Wilkinson County’s night after the very first shot when Council banked home a 3. Landmark seemed baffled as Simmons drilled three long 3s in the first quarter, with each one seeing Simmons move out a little deeper. The second quarter did not get much better for the War Eagles as Wilkinson County forced 17 first-half turnovers and led 31-15 at the break.
Landmark showed why it has won 22 games this year in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Houston Kessler, who had been held to four points in the first half, scored eight points in the third quarter to help cut Wilkinson County’s lead to 41-32. Council, however banked home another three at the buzzer to give the Warriors a 12-point lead heading into the final quarter. Landmark, behind Kessler and Justin Ross, started the final quarter on an 8-2 run to cut the Warriors’ lead to 46-40 with 4:04 left in the game, but Jeremy McCormick hit a 3 for Wilkinson County on the next trip, which got the Warriors going.
And they outscored Landmark 12-0 the rest of the way.
“We had chances to have an even bigger lead early, and we weren’t able to do it,” Wilkinson County head coach Aaron Geter said. “We knew what Landmark Christian was capable of and they made a nice run at us in the second half, but what is important is we were able to get ourselves together and play well down the stretch. Denzel Council gives us a player that can do a little bit of everything on the floor and Simmons is a threat anytime he has the basketball. It’s all about advancing to the next round, and getting back to the final eight is a great feeling.”