Wilson coach Dave Alwert needed his team to get back to executing down the stretch. And thankfully, he had some seniors to help him out.
Three of the Rams’ senior starters, who were honored on senior night before the game, combined for eight points in the final 1 minute, 45 seconds and allowed No. 6 Wilson (16-3, 11-2) to pull away from Spanaway Lake (14-5, 9-4) for a 70-65 win in a key 3A Pierce County League matchup on Tuesday at Wilson.
“We just won that last two-minute battle,” Alwert said.
After Wilson assembled a 23-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, Spanaway Lake chipped away steadily and eventually tied the game with 2:10 remaining after a pair of free throws and a transition layup from Divante Moffitt.
“They’re a resilient team, so they did what resilient teams do,” said Wilson senior Emmitt Matthews Jr., a UConn signee. “They stayed bucked in and locked in.”
Senior wing Nathaniel Stokes drilled a turnaround jumper to provide the Rams the lead back with 1:45 remaining. After Spanaway Lake’s Isaiah Turner missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Matthews drew a foul and nailed a pair of free throws.
Matthews later fired a full-court outlet pass to Londrell Hamilton for an uncontested layup on the ensuing possession, then Matthews put a bow on the game with an alley-oop dunk off the stellar pass from sophomore Damani Green.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Alwert said. “They fought, they held ground and got the dub.”
Three seniors catalysts winning the game on senior night? Seems fitting.
“These kids work their tails off every single day,” Alwert said of his seniors. “Emmitt’s been here for all four years and Nathanial (Stokes) has been here for three years, but he had a helluva game, hit the boards for us. He’s really turning into a player. And Londrell is Londrell. He’s turning into the consummate point guard that runs the team and might be the best defensive player I’ve ever seen.”
Matthews finished with 27 points to lead the Rams. Stokes chipped in 13.
Even though they grinded out an exciting win, much of talk amongst the players post-game revolved around a self-assisted off-the-backboard alley-oop dunk.
“I said I was going to do it before the season, so I said, ‘Why not?” Matthews said of the play? “I saw the defender look scared, so I threw it up to see what he’s going to do and he didn’t do anything so I just jumped up, caught it and dunked it.”
The Rams forced a slew of turnovers in the first quarter and Matthews poured in 12 points to jump out to an early lead. The Sentinels came back large in part due to some hot shooting from SL senior guard Isaiah Turner, who scored 14 points in the second quarter.
“I just thought in the matchup we lost him a couple of times,” Alwert said. “And once he gets feeling it a little bit, he can catch fire real quick. That’s on us.”
Alwert said he didn’t know if it was dead legs or a letdown after the emotion from senior night, but he wasn’t pleased with the Rams diverting from the gameplan.
“We got off to a roarin’ start on senior night. The second quarter we fell back to reality,” he said. “Kids wanted to put up the shots instead of stick to the game plan and they snuck back in.”
Spanaway Lake embarked on a 13-5 run to start the fourth quarter to tie the game at 62.
Turner finished with 24 points to lead the Sentinels. Derek Gordon Jr. chipped in 15 and Divante Moffitt added 12.
Wilson is locked in as the PCL’s No. 2 seed going into the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament next weekend. Spanaway Lake is the No. 3 seed.
NO. 6 WILSON
Wilson: Damani Green 6, Emmitt Mathews Jr. 27, Emani Mitchell 2, Daniel Santana 4, Nate Stokes 13, Londrell Hamilton 10, Darrian Bates 2, Kiwanis Thomas III 4, Dom Ellison 2
Spanaway Lake: Derek Gordon Jr. 15, Divante Moffitt 12, Isaiah Turner 24, Quincy Wilson 4, Jordan Garner 2, Terrell Williams 8