This season, Wilson High School has enjoyed a victorious tour of hostile road basketball environments.
So imagine what it was like for coach Dave Alwert 10 minutes before tipoff Wednesday watching his Rams inexplicably start doing stuff in pregame warmups they never do.
Alwert ran out to the team, got his players in a huddle and delivered a pointed message.
“I told them they were scared because they were doing something different than their normal routine,” Alwert said, “but in different words.”
It was an all-city showdown played by young men Wednesday — one where the No. 2 Rams stood tallest in the final seconds, edging No. 4 Lincoln, 55-54, in a 3A Narrows League matchup.
Nearly erasing all of an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes, Lincoln (8-1 overall, 2-1 league) had a chance to win at the end, but ninth-grader Londrell Hamilton’s fallaway 13-foot jump shot bounced off the back iron with 3 seconds to go.
The Abes got their hands on a rebound but didn’t get off a putback as time expired.
Almost too tired to heartily celebrate, Wilson (10-0, 4-0) was just relieved to get out of the sold-out Lincoln gymnasium with a victory.
“It was a battle,” Wilson forward Alphonso Anderson said. “It was hyped to be a big game on Twitter and everything. It lived up to it — a one-point game in the end.”
As much trouble as the Rams had in taking care of the basketball against Lincoln’s pressure — they turned it over 26 times — eventually their size and strength took over.
Anderson, David Jenkins and Jamal Welch also tallied second-chance points off free throws as Wilson opened the fourth quarter with scores on seven of its first eight possessions.
Montre Brown-Lofton’s layin off an Ivy Smith Jr. feed gave the Rams a 55-47 lead with 3:15 remaining.
Then the Rams stalled. They turned it over three consecutive times, giving Lincoln a chance to get back into it.
Abes junior Josiah Barsh scored seven of his team-high 12 points in a 1:25 span, capped by two free throws to cut it to 55-54 with 1:21 remaining.
Smith got off a wild shot in the lane that hit nothing but glass, and the Rams were called for a shot-clock violation with 44 seconds to go.
Hamilton was left alone at the top of the 3-point arc, but his go-ahead attempt bounced off, giving the Rams possession.
Welch could not inbound the basketball, and Wilson turned it over one final time on a five-second violation with 19 seconds remaining.
Hamilton took the reins and charged off a late screen by Justice Martion. He darted left.
“We wanted him to be the creator. … but wanted to get (the play) going a little sooner,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “That was showing our inexperience a little bit.”
With no real other option but to create a shot for himself, Hamilton tried getting inside, but he was met by Anderson and Smith just outside the key.
“We wanted to make him an ordinary player and not let him get that spectacular shot off,” Alwert said. “I thought it was great defense. We showed real well. Ivy got underneath the screen, took away his head fake, took away his spin (move). He had to hit a floating fadeaway off the glass.”
But a budding city rivalry full of talented underclassmen certainly did not.