By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Whether he’s leading a team of a private school or guiding what has become one of the now storied high school public basketball programs in the D.M.V., Wise first year head coach Lou Williams keeps on winning at a championship level. As Williams, the former Riverdale Baptist head coach, stewards this edition of the Pumas they are once again a threat to win a state championship.
“It’s been very good for me to get them to perform at the level they are playing at right now,” Williams told the AFRO. “But I’m still looking for the right combinations and we still haven’t played our best basketball yet this year.”
Wise has the look of a team that is poised to make another run at a Maryland state AAAA basketball championship. Before their loss to Eleanor Roosevelt in the Prince George’s County Coaches Challenge the Pumas won 11 of their first 13 games behind a group of veteran leaders who are leading by example and productivity.
In a victory over Bowie, two seniors forwards led them by combining for 29 points and 16 rebounds. Joel Webb scored 16 points and grabbed rebounds while their sharpshooter Gabriel Arnold added 16 points and 8 boards and four assists.
That win, however, was the example that will make them a challenge when the playoff season commences at the end of February. Wilson has blended Wise’s talent and teamwork into a cohesive unit that understands the intangibles necessary to be a championship squad. While Arnold and Webb put them in a position to win, junior Kejuan Frager was the difference maker.
Frager converted a four-point play with seven seconds remaining for Wise to escape with a 62-60 win. The dynamic senior duo scored almost half of their points, but the depth of the Pumas roster is what gave them an edge for the stretch run in that game.
However, the rest of the Prince George’s County is not intimidated by the stature of the Wise program. The Pumas have become one of the biggest pelts to add on everyone’s schedule and get the other team’s best shot each time they take to the floor. Last weekend’s game versus Bowie in the Coaches Challenge showcase proved that.
Despite another brilliant effort by Webb, the Eagles shocked Wise and beat them 72-71. Webb finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds with sophomore guard Daemon Ford adding 16 points and four assists. Despite scoring 12 points, Arnold wasn’t a factor on the glass finishing with only two rebounds. Frager, whose late heroics saved them in their previous game, was hampered by foul trouble and scored only three points.
Weather delays continue to plague the scheduling of these high school teams throughout the D.M.V. Normally there are fewer games down the stretch that allow for extended practice time to get ready for the playoffs. However, that’s not the case for Wise this year, who face another scheduling setback that will force them to compact a series of tough games against 4-A opponents before heading into the County and ultimately the state’s postseason tournaments.
The Pumas still have two more games on their schedule against Eleanor Roosevelt, which are never easy. Wise plays at least eight games in 20 days during the last month of the regular season which could become even more compacted depending what role the weather will play in rescheduling regular season games.
“I’m from the old school and I still believe if you’re a well trained athlete, fatigue shouldn’t affect your ability to perform on the court,” Williams said. “We won’t buy into using the fact we’re tired as an excuse.”