The high school basketball season may still be young, but the Wilson Rams have already found their footing.
Dominique Ellison scored scored 18 points, Kiwanis Thomas III added 15 and the Rams (8-4) used some stingy defense, and a punishing transition attack, to defeat visiting Spanaway Lake, 68-63, Friday night in Tacoma and stay perfect in Class 3A Pierce County League play.
“I thought our press was pretty active tonight, guys were flying around and just guarding the ball hard and making them pass it around a little bit,” Wilson coach Mike Cocke’ said. “We feel like if we can get the ball out of certain guys’ hands, there’s a good chance that people are going to turn it over. (Our press) spread them out, made us play fast, and that’s how we want to play.”
Wilson’s defense was particularly effective in the first half, trapping the Spanaway Lake ball handlers as they crossed midcourt, and forcing the Sentinels (8-3) into errors in the passing lanes that in turn fed the fleet-footed fast break of the Rams.
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“We’re more of a transition team, so we don’t really come down and set plays,” Ellison said. “Our defense really helped us score a lot.”
Ellison had no problem getting buckets, leading his team in points in the paint, and converting a big 3-point play to put the game out of reach with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Ellison said. “Our teammates were working hard, and we were getting open looks.”
Coming out of the locker room after halftime with a 43-29 lead, however, Wilson took its foot off the gas and allowed Spanaway Lake an opportunity to climb back into the game behind the play of star senior Terrell Williams.
He scored nine of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter, including seven straight to open the period. A quick 3-point play to open the fourth quarter trimmed the Rams’ lead to 56-49.
“I think when they came back in the third — credit them for playing hard and getting back into it — but I think our shot selection kind of (played) into that,” Cocke’ said. “We settled for a lot of jumpers in the third quarter. … We have to play the right way and move the ball, and we didn’t do those things.”
The Sentinels couldn’t inch any closer the rest of the way, though, as the Rams refocused on attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, where they enjoyed a 21-7 advantage in attempts.
The remainder of the quarter expired without much drama, setting up a big game next week for Wilson against crosstown rival Lincoln, which also still carries an undefeated mark in league play after routing Lakes, 73-52, on Friday night.
“We want to continue to get better, try to peak at the right time,” Cocke’ said. “Just share the basketball, play fast, try to get stops and just continue to get better.”
For Cocke’, who is in his first season at Wilson after moving from Foss last summer to replace longtime Rams coach Dave Alwert, this year so far has been a work in progress. The Rams’ undefeated start to league play is encouraging, but there’s always room for improvement, he says.
“It’s been good. It’s been a transition, for sure,” Cocke’ said. “When you’re somewhere for 13 years, you kind of have things established. And, as I’m going through the year I’m realizing that there’s things I’ve got to set in the foundation, so I’m just trying to do that, get the kids to buy into our concept, and how we want to play.”
SL – Izayaih Shanks 8, Josiah Millen 9, Wemba Okonda 10, Terrell Williams 29, Trishion Sullivan 4, Ryann Ballah 3.
W – Damani Green 9, Emani Mitchell 8, Davion Franklin 6, Daniel Santana 11, Dominique Ellison 18, Kiwanis Thomas III 15, Malik Howard.