By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
The D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA boys’ basketball championship game gave Wilson High School a chance to erase the memory of a heartbreaking loss in the DCIAA championship game to Theodore Roosevelt a week earlier. The veterans who remained from last year’s team were playing in their third state title against a team from Gonzaga, who played with a swagger of carrying the banner for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), who many experts around the area feel is the best high school league in America.
While the Tigers were reeling after their loss to DCIAA champions from Theodore Roosevelt, Gonzaga didn’t arrive to the District’s state championship on a roll either. The Eagles lost earlier in the week to a motivated DeMatha team who wouldn’t lose while playing for the memory of the late coach Morgan Wooten and claimed their 41st WCAC championship in school history.
The 2020 D.C. high school basketball bridesmaids met Sunday night at George Washington’s Bender Arena. For a good time, Wilson’s previous success against WCAC schools – including beating them in the semifinals in 2018 and a win over Archbishop Carroll in the 2020 quarterfinals – gave them confidence especially when they led at halftime. However, Gonzaga collected themselves after trailing at the break to earn a 55-49 victory to earn the D.C. state title.
Senior forward Terrance Williams, who was part of Gonzaga’s last state championship team in 2017, scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a game that grew chippy as fans started taunting each other in the stands leading to greater intensity on the floor. The Eagles made critical adjustments to their defense and by putting the clamps on Wilson the momentum clearly shifted, which carried them over to the fourth quarter.
Gonzaga’s defense was stifling after the break. It found another gear and began to impose its will on the game. The Eagles held Wilson to only four points in the fourth quarter, which intensified the atmosphere in the arena. Once the defense set the tone, the offense finally got into a rhythm in a game where points were hard to come by and Gonzaga’s veterans were able to take control. Players who had previously been in the moment rose to the occasion and led them down the stretch.
Each time Wilson tried to make a run it was answered by a clutch shot from a senior trio who were freshmen the last time the Eagles won the DCSHAA title. Williams was the offensive impetus in the final period. He drew the wrath of a contentious group of Wilson fans by completing a three-point play then flexing his muscles to taunt them.
“It gave me momentum to keep going- keep making them mad,” Williams said. “It just made me play harder.”
However, their two other seniors – Chuck Harris and Myles Stutle – showed their championship mettle down the stretch also. When the Eagles needed critical baskets with the game on the line either Williams, Harris or Stutle came through to stem the tide.