As Wilson High’s girls basketball team exited a locker room for the final time this season after losing to Cleveland, 46-41 in a Class 3A regional Saturday at Rogers High, coach Michelle Birge had already tasked some Rams with an offseason challenge.
“We’re missing that consistent constructive criticism voice – it rings loud from me – but you need it to come from a player,” she said. “I’ve asked a few players to step up and do that and I have faith that they will.
“If they want to play Division-I basketball than you have to find that voice. There’s no quiet point guard, not quiet forwards.”
Fourth-ranked Wilson (20-4) played out of sorts through much of the loser-out game. The Rams turned over the ball on three of their first four possessions and endured a scoreless seven-minute stretch in the first half as No. 10 Cleveland built a 25-14 halftime lead.
Wilson finally came alive in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 35-23 at the start of the period, junior guard Kaysha Fox scored the first two baskets of a 16-5 Rams run. Freshman Dejah Rogers added four free throws and a 3-pointer and Alexus Grant layin off a fastbreak capped the spurt that curt the margin to one, 40-39, with two minutes to play.
“We realized (the game) was coming to and end,” Fox said. “We realized we wanted it.”
That’s as close as Wilson got to Cleveland (20-6).
Fox hit two free throws with 22 seconds left that made it 44-41, but the Narrows League champions misfired on their last two possessions.
Forward Tia Briggs and Rogers led the Rams with 11 points and Fox added 10.
Cleveland guard Myzhanique Ladd scored a game-high 17 points.
Birge told her team she was proud of the season.
“These girls did something I’ve never seen any girls team do,” she said. “They stood together wholeheartedly. They loved each other.”
Wilson’s players won’t be the only one working to improve in the offseason. Birge said she plans to pick the brains of colleagues and read books on the best ways to mentally prepare a team.
Birge sees a bright future for Wilson. She’s encouraged that four starters can return and by a promising crop of underclassmen.
“Wilson’s back on the map in terms of being a basketball school,” Birge said.