Deja Vu: Sidwell breaks Wilson’s heart again

Marco Squiteri

Wilson lost to Sidwell 46-45 in the DCSAA state championship on a buzzer-beater put-back. History repeated itself in the most painful way for the Tigers, as the loss mirrors the 2019 state title game where Wilson also lost to Sidwell on a buzzer-beater. 

The Tigers led 45-44 and gained possession with 6.6 seconds remaining. Disaster struck however, as guard Marvin Brimage muffed the inbounds pass, turning the ball over. Off the inbound, Sidwell senior guard Christian Gamble swung around the perimeter before hucking up a contested three, which he air-balled. For one last brief second, it appeared the Tigers had squeaked out a win. Unfortunately, Sophomore forward Caleb Williams caught Gamble’s missed shot and put it back in as time expired, crushing the dreams of the Tigers and their fans.

Senior Forward Darren Buchanan emphasized the positives he took away from the team’s performance despite the heartbreaking ending. “I feel like we played a great game,” said Buchanan. “The first time we played them they beat us by almost twenty points… I couldn’t be more proud of [our] team.” 

One of the biggest turning points in the game occurred in the second quarter, when Buchanan injured his groin after a ferocious dunk. After exiting the game, Buchanan was given the choice of playing through the injury or not. “I just took a look down the bench, looked at my teammates, and [thought] I got to play, I got to give them everything I got,” said Buchanan. After returning, Buchanan was clearly limited by the injury and was unable to score at the volume he typically does. 

Throughout the entire game, the energy brought by both schools’ student sections was remarkable. “I think that in a word, the atmosphere on Sunday was electric,” said Chad Ricardo, a local sports journalist who called the game for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) network. Ricardo praised the energy brought by Tiger fans both against Sidwell and in the semi-finals against Gonzaga. “I believe that the atmosphere you all created on Sunday helped catapult you all,” said Ricardo.

Another key improvement Ricardo identified in Wilson’s improved performance was the performance of Sophomore Guard Joseph Mcrae. Mcrae stepped up massively on the defensive end, forcing numerous turnovers and shutting down Cameron Gillus throughout the game. “In that first matchup, Cam Gillus made your guards look like JV players,” said Ricardo. Shutting down Gillus was one of the major factors Ricardo pointed to in the difference in competitiveness between the two games.

Although this loss will no doubt sting for some time, the tremendous play from players returning such as Lucas Sekasi, Robert Dockery, as well as Brimage and Mcrae leave the program in a good spot moving forward, something Buchanan emphasized immediately after the loss. “I definitely stood up and [said] you guys are gonna come back next year,” said Buchanan. He preached to his teammates to “Work as hard as you can so you never get to feel that feeling again.” 

This game marked the third consecutive year Wilson and Sidwell have met in the DCSAA playoffs. The rivalry has brought unparalleled excitement and should lead to more explosive meetings in the future. “It’s DC Public school vs DC Private School, and that rivalry and what that means to people…that goes so much deeper than just this basketball game,” said Ricardo. 

Despite the gut-wrenching ending, the Tigers had an outstanding season which saw them capture a DCIAA title and outperform expectations against top-ranked private schools. Tiger players and fans should feel nothing but pride in the special season that occurred. •