Take a tape measure to each of the starters on Wilson High’s boys basketball team and their heights won’t match what’s printed on the roster.
“We embellish our size,” Rams coach Dave Alwert said. “We’ve got a kid out there 5-foot, a kid 5-foot-5.”
For most of the season, Wilson played bigger than its size.
The eighth-ranked Rams rolled through Narrows League 3A play undefeated and claimed their first conference crown since 1998.
In a Class 3A regional Friday night at Rogers High, Wilson’s memorable season came to an end. Lake Washington High’s 6-foot-11 center Darien Nelson-Henry took advantage of the smaller Rams, leading the Kangaroos to a 51-40 victory in a winner-to-state game.
Alwert said he was immensely proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“The motto all year has been play hard, play smart, play together,” he said. “When you get to the playoffs you’ve got to substitute the word ‘fight’ for ‘play.’ That’s what it was, a dog fight.”
The big dog won.
Wilson (20-4) had no player to match Nelson-Henry’s inside presence. The Rams’ tallest starters gave up eight inches to the University of Pennsylvania-bound senior, who scored a game-high 25 points.
The size mismatch was obvious and KingCo 3A champion Lake Washington (20-6) went to Nelson-Henry early. He dunked nine seconds into the game and scored four of the Kangaroos’ first five baskets.
“Go inside first because we have the advantage,” Nelson-Henry said. “They’re a quick scrappy team with fast guards so we have to exploit an advantage where we can and it just happened to be me this game.”
Lake Washington took control in the second quarter, outscoring Wilson 16-5. The Rams switched to a halfcourt set and didn’t challenge the Kangaroos inside, something Alwert would change if he could play the game again.
“We had a let-down in the second quarter,” he said. “We lost that quarter by 11. That’s the exact same score by which we lost the game.
“We were moving the ball on the perimeter too much, instead of really attacking the inside. It cost us. Hindsight is 20-20.”
Jaiden Martin led Wilson with 11 points and Kevin Johnson added six.
Matt Staudacher chipped in 16 for Lake Washington.