For a brief few moments to start Friday’s championship game of the Franklin Tournament of Champions between Wilson and Cleveland at Franklin High School in Seattle, it looked as though the Rams would roll to victory.
Things changed quickly.
The Rams led 8-2 two minutes into the game, but it was Cleveland that rallied and took control of the game, beating the Rams, 83-68, to win the title, and handing Wilson its second loss of the season in the process.
“(They) thought we won the game,” Wilson head coach Dave Alwert said. “Kids stopped playing, stopped sharing the ball, and stopped doing what we had done to get to this point. We fell apart. We fell apart as a team.
“These kids need to stay strong through the ups and the downs, and not break when something is going bad.”
After trailing 2-0 to start the game, Wilson never trailed for the remainder of the first quarter. Cleveland took its second lead of the game with 5 minutes, 34 seconds to play in the second quarter, starting a back-and-forth battle for the remainder of the half. The second quarter featured 10 lead changes and five ties, including being tied at 38 at halftime.
Cleveland used a 7-0 run to jump out to a 45-38 lead to start the third quarter, but the Rams bounced back to tie the game at 47. The final five minutes of the third quarter played out much like the second, with two ties and seven lead changes, though the Eagles did extend to a 63-57 lead after three quarters.
Though the Rams (8-2) were still in the game, momentum seemed to be with the Eagles, who seized control in the fourth quarter. Cleveland outscored Wilson, 20-11, in the period to seize the victory.
“It was tough,” Alwert said. “I was trying different matchups and different lineups to try and keep some energy in there. It’s hard when you have to coach energy. As a coach, you want to teach. You want to teach the game and you want to coach the game. If you lead, motivate and coach at the same time, that’s just too tough. That has to be on the players. The players have to bring the leadership and they have to bring the motivation, and we were lacking those two things tonight.”
Phillip White, a 6-6 senior post, scored 24 points to lead the Eagles (6-2) and was named tournament MVP. When the Eagles made their run in the second half, it was White who was right in the middle of the action, making plays at both the offensive and defensive end.
“He’s a handful,” Alwert said. “Basically we were trying to deny him the ball, but he would get the ball, but we weren’t getting over when we should have and we didn’t trap early enough. He just pounded that ball down inside for that nice little hook. He played his butt off.”
Junior forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. led the Rams with 26 points. Senior guard Londrell “Prince” Hamilton chipped in 17.
Cleveland: Phillip White 24, C.J. Elleby 4, Fahad Sharif 9, Jahleel Breland 13, Mubarak Michaels 12, Khalil Goodwin 5, Alex Taylor 2, Niko Clark 14.
Wilson: Daniel Santana 4, Emmitt Matthews Jr. 26, Michael Doss II 2, Nathaniel Stokes 8, Londrell â€œPrinceâ€ Hamilton 17, Syrus Penor 2, Anthony Stokes 3, Austin Bates 6.