TAMPA — Jack Taylor picked up Wharton for the entire second half to lift the Wildcats to their fifth consecutive district title.
And after the game, it was his turn to get picked up — by teammate Chase Litton in a celebratory bear hug.
Taylor scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to lead Wharton to a 40-37 victory in the Class 8A, District 7 championship at Alonso.
“Jack definitely stepped up and got us kick-started,” Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said.
Taylor’s late surge was necessary after Wharton (19-6) struggled through one of its worst halves of the season.
Newsome (16-9) led for most of the game’s first 23 minutes. Five Wolves scored in the first quarter while the Wildcats sputtered.
Wharton missed 15 of its first 17 shots and had almost as many turnovers (five) as points (six) through the midway point of the second quarter.
“We felt like we couldn’t have struggled any more offensively than we did,” Tonelli said.
Auden Tate sparked Wharton in the second half with a steal and layup 30 seconds into the third quarter, and Taylor took over from there.
His three-point play cut Wharton’s deficit to 19-17, and his bucket off of a Litton pass gave the Wildcats a 24-22 lead with 1:21 left in the third. Wharton never trailed again.
Newsome trailed by seven with three minutes left before mounting a final charge. Hayden Harkins banked in a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left that trimmed Wharton’s lead to 40-37.
The Wolves had three more chances to tie the score but missed them all, including a half-court shot at the buzzer that slammed off the backboard.
Tate finished with seven points and seven rebounds for Wharton, and Litton added five points and eight rebounds after missing most of the last two weeks with a severe ankle injury.
Anthony Gamble led Newsome with eight points, and Jeff Povelones and Harkins finished with seven points apiece for the Wolves.