Facing a 16-point first-half deficit at Howard with an 0-3 league start looming, struggling Wilde Lake increased its defensive intensity in the second half last night. The Wildecats' aggressive 2-3 zone paid off.
Wilde Lake (4-6, 1-2) forced five turnovers to help mount a 19-0 run that led to a 57-53 victory over the stunned Lions (5-6, 2-1).
Wilde Lake junior guard Seth Willingham was the difference at the end.
With Howard leading 53-52 with a minute left, Lions junior guard Jamaal Tyler traveled. Wilde Lake head coach Paul Ellis called timeout and told his players to take the first open shot.
"I didn't think we could hold onto the ball and I didn't want to hold the ball," Ellis said. 'If we missed the shot, we wanted to have a chance to foul them, put them at the free-throw line and be able to get the ball back with plenty of time for a shot."
Willingham, who made just three of 12 field-goal shots in the first half, found himself with the open shot after a pass from teammate Deon Wingfield. But Willingham was standing deep in the far corner, well beyond the three-point arch.
"Deon had the ball and he shielded my man just enough before he kicked it out to me. I knew the shot was good as soon as I let it go," Willingham said. "I had tried to spot up all night, but they were playing out on me tight."
Willingham's three-pointer gave the Wildecats a 55-53 lead with 41 seconds remaining. Howard had three more shots from the field, but none of them fell and the Lions were caught with too many fouls to commit before Wilde Lake was in the bonus. After being fouled four times, Willingham sank two free throws with 3.8 seconds to seal Wilde Lake's win.
Willingham's heroics were made possible by Wildecat senior forward Taronn Evans, who carried Wilde Lake's offensive load by scoring 18 of his team's first 40 points while gathering eight rebounds.
"In the locker room at halftime, I pumped the fellows up," said Evans. "I told them it doesn't matter how much we're down by, we just have to play hard defense and we can get back in the
Wilde Lake senior center Ramon Myers came off the bench to score 10 points and grab four rebounds to help the Wildecats.