The Wilson Rams held off a furious second-half rally by the Franklin Quakers for an 85-82 victory in the semifinals of the Franklin Tournament of Champions on Thursday at Franklin High School.
The Rams never trailed in the first half and led by as many as 12 points, but the Quakers found their stroke from long range in the second half. Franklin made 11 3-pointers in the second half and scored 34 points in the third quarter to take the lead, but the Rams knocked down clutch free throws down the stretch to escape with the win.
“It’s against a really good team,” Wilson head coach Dave Alwert said. “A Metro team is a Metro team. It’s just a tough environment to come up here to their home, especially in a holiday tournament. To get them at the end was a real big win.”
The Rams lead 44-33 at halftime, but the Quakers responded thanks, in large part, to junior point guard Marquan Williams. Williams scored 29 points in the game, but his outside shooting and ability to get his teammates open looks from beyond 3-point line sparked his team and the crowd.
“He’s a quick little guard and he can shoot it well,” Alwert said. “We just did our best, and I’m so proud of our guards. I think Prince (Hamilton) really stepped up to the game. He took it over at the end and got into the lane and got some easy buckets.”
Hamilton finished with 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half.
Many of Franklin’s outside shots, which had faltered in the first half, started to drop in the third quarter, putting the Rams on their heels.
“They were hitting some fadeaway 3s,” Alwert said. “We were contesting them, but they were just knocking down some really tough shots. We didn’t think they were going to continue to go. We extended a little bit on their guards to try and stop that pass, and we contested a little quicker, and I thought we contested a little bit better in the fourth quarter.”
The Quakers took their first lead 3 minutes, 18 seconds to play in the third quarter, and the game remained a battle down to the final moments. The score was tied at 80 in the final minute, but the Rams made four of their final five free throws to cement the win.
Wilson (8-1) will face Cleveland in Friday night’s championship game.
The Rams were led in scoring by senior Anthony Stokes, who scored 24 points and connected on six 3-pointers, five of which came in the first half.
“Early on he caught fire and really gave us a good spark,” Alwert said.
Junior forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. also chipped in 21 points for the Rams.
Wilson 24 20 19 22 - 85
Franklin 19 14 34 15 - 82
Wilson: Daniel Santana 5, Emmitt Matthews Jr. 21, Michael Doss II 2, Nathaniel Stokes 5, Emani Mitchell 2, Londrell “Prince” Hamilton 19, Anthony Stokes 24, Austin Bates 7.
Franklin: Marquan Williams 29, Cejay Garrison Jr. 7, Vatrevyon Garner 5, Maurice Barnett 13, Dave Pierre 9, Naji Ibrahim 5, Nikeari Richardson 3, Jelani Tolbert 11.