Two-point game. 10 seconds left in the second overtime. St. John’s junior shooting guard Casey Morsell searches for holes in the Tigers’ defense. With time winding down, he is forced to penetrate and throw up a contested layup. No good. Senior forward Ricky Lindo grabs the rebound and heaves it up court to senior point guard Ayinde Hikim. The final buzzer sounds and Hikim throws down an emphatic after-the-horn dunk. The crowd erupts as the players begin to celebrate. For the first time in school history, Wilson has been crowned the king of DC basketball.
Although the Tigers’ season was a bit of a rollercoaster, everything materialized down the stretch. Sophomore forward Dimingus Stevens always liked the team’s chances. “I had a feeling we would win [states] because we had the energy from last year. I felt like we’d win.”
They cruised to a DCIAA championship win and did not let the momentum go to waste. They entered the state tournament as the fourth seed, behind Gonzaga (1), Friendship Tech (2), and St. John’s (3).
In the quarterfinals, they squared off against the Roosevelt. In their two previous matchups, Wilson had easily handled the Roughriders. However, this high-stakes contest came down to the wire. With 0.2 seconds on the clock, a foul was called on junior forward Jay Heath that sent Roosevelt’s Kareem James to the line for two shots with a chance to tie the game at 80. James missed both shots. On the second, Ricky Lindo quickly batted the ball away and Wilson escaped with the victory. Ayinde Hikim finished with 21 points and 8 assists. Lindo also added 19 points and 8 rebounds, as well as 3 blocks.
In the semifinals, the Tigers were matched up with a WCAC powerhouse in Gonzaga. The Eagles were ranked second in DMV by the Washington Post and finished their season with a record of 27-8. However, on March 1, they were outdone by Wilson’s Dimingus Stevens and Jay Heath. Stevens poured in 25 points with an electrifying shooting performance. “I had faith in my shot. I thought it was going in every time,” he exclaimed.
Jay Heath contributed 15 points and sunk a shot that iced the game for the Tigers. With 13 seconds left and time on the shot clock dwindling, Heath threw up a prayer from way behind the three-point line. The crowd turned to chaos as the ball swished through the net. “It was a relief because I knew the game was over. We were going to the championship,” he explained.
Lindo, who finished with 7 points and 9 rebounds, added, “It means a lot, especially because I go to public school. My first choice coming out of middle school was to go to Gonzaga. It feels good to actually beat them in a very important game.”
“God bleeds green!’” chants echoed throughout Georgetown’s McDonough Gym as Gonzaga’s players trudged off the floor and the Wilson team jumped for joy. The program was headed to its first state championship game.
Wilson was set to take on St. John’s at George Washington University’s Charles E. Smith Center. Although the Cadets were not as strong of a team as in recent years (only ranked 17 by the Washington Post), their roster still included several special talents. Senior point guard Tre Wood is committed to play at the University of Massachusetts and their junior star Casey Morsell has garnered interest from big-time Division I schools such as Florida and Georgetown.
Neither team could find their stroke during the final contest. The Tigers shot a lowly 39% from the field. The Cadets shot even worse at just 37%. Turnovers ended up being the difference in the game. St. John’s had a colossal 21 while Wilson was able to limit themselves to just eight. Taking care of the ball, along with lock-down defense, allowed the Tigers to outlast their opponents after two overtimes. Jay Heath took home the MVP award with 15 points, as well as a huge three-pointer with 3:45 left in the second overtime that put Wilson in the driver’s seat. Ayinde Hikim dropped 21 points and 8 rebounds. He had two buckets at the end of regulation that pushed the game into overtime. Senior center Josiah Marable also added 11 points and 11 rebounds. “I was overwhelmed with joy for the kids because I believe in them,” said head coach Angelo Hernandez.
In his fourth year coaching, Hernandez had developed a close relationship with the skilled group of seniors on the team. “To part this way [with the seniors] meant a lot to me,” he explained.
Even though Hernandez is ecstatic about the championship win, he is not yet satisfied. He wishes to build up an elite program that can gain some national attention. “We will just go back to the drawing board,” the coach emphasized.
“We will continue to prepare to be successful. We believe in what we are doing here.” •