Wilson High School boys basketball coach Mike Cocke’ says the sign of a tough team is how it competes in the fourth quarter.
By that reasoning, his Rams (10-5) proved to be one of the toughest teams in the South Sound on Wednesday night in Tacoma.
Trailing most of the contest, and by double digits early in the final period, Wilson rallied late and pieced together an 18-0 run in the closing minutes to stun city rival Stadium, 68-59.
“It became contagious,” Cocke’ said of Wilson’s energy during the decisive run. “Guys got excited for each other, started to play for each other, started to defend.”
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The Rams took the game’s final lead with three minutes, 27 seconds remaining, when Daniel Santana threw a lob pass the length of the court in transition, and Damani Green hauled it in before pulling up for a short jumper on the baseline.
That gave Wilson a 60-59 lead, and Stadium (6-9) didn’t score again. Santana finished with a team-high 17 points, four rebounds and three steals, while Green added 16 points and four assists.
Santana and Green combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter, and each played key roles down the stretch. Green sunk a pair of free throws with 54.2 seconds to go to give Wilson a 65-59 advantage.
Portland State football signee Davion Gaines, who paced Stadium with 17 points, missed a corner 3-pointer at the other end, and though the Tigers got the rebound, Santana took a charge to end the threat with 32.3 second remaining.
“They thought I was going to jump, so I just took it,” Santana said. “We just had to lock in on defense. The whole game we were playing a little sluggish. I talked to my guys coming out of a timeout like, ‘We have to get this done. We have to win this game. It’s important.’ ”
Cocke’ said Santana’s drawn charge seemed to be the moment the Rams fully took control.
“Daniel is just a senior in that moment, and knows momentum is on our side, and to get a charge on top of that, that’s when I knew the game was over,” Cocke’ said.
After the Rams missed the front end of a one-and-one, so did the Tigers on the other end, and Santana was fouled with 18.1 to go. He sunk both to put a stamp on the win.
Though Santana and Green were the key scorers in the fourth quarter that helped the Rams pull away, Cocke’ pointed to his bench for igniting the late comeback.
“I thought when Adam Maxon and Jerome Smith came in the game things changed,” he said. “We were struggling against the zone a little bit, and those guys hit some 3’s and that kind of opened things up.”
“That really got the momentum shifted,” Santana said. “Our starters were really hyped on the bench, and that brought us back.”
Malik Howard also finished in double digits for the Rams, pitching in 10 points, and though Kiwanis Thomas III didn’t score, he pulled down 11 rebounds — including several in the fourth quarter that led to transition baskets.
“One thing we preach to our guys is, if we get stops, to push the basketball, turn and outlet, put pressure on the defense, look to throw ahead and see if you can get those plays,” Cocke’ said. “I thought our offensive transition was really good in the second half, and Kiwanis was rebounding the ball and looking for those guys.”
Wilson remains in second place in the Class 3A Pierce County League standings with the win, trailing league-leading Lincoln by a game, while Stadium drops into a tie for third with Spanaway Lake.
Donnelle Irvin (16 points, five rebounds) and Edward Brown (14 points, five rebounds, three steals) also finished in double figures scoring for the Tigers.
“I thought it was a good win for us, to come on the road in a hostile environment,” Cocke’ said. “Stadium in good. They have some good players. They make things interesting.”
But, much like they have throughout the season, Cocke’ said, the Rams found a way to rally late.
“They really feel like it’s kind of time to go (in the fourth quarter), and they compete hard,” he said.
W – Shooting: 24 of 44 (54.5 percent). Free throws: 11 of 15 (73.3). Turnovers: 18.
S – Shooting: 23 of 57 (40.1 percent). Free throws: 9 of 16 (56.2). Turnovers: 14.
W – Damani Green 16, Emani Mitchell 4, Daniel Santana 17, Jackson Dorsey 2, Juels Krosschell 3, Dominique Ellison 5, Adam Maxon 5, Malik Howard 10, Jerome Smith 6.
S – Edward Brown 14, Davion Gaines 17, Jaden Call 7, Ricky Jackson 5, Donnelle Irvin 16.