Four days after Wilson lost 81-29 to H.D. Woodson in the DCIAA title game at Coolidge, the Tigers earned a rematch with the Warriors in the DCSAA semifinal.

At times, Wilson forward Mercedes Suarez gave Woodson problems in the first matchup – but she faced wave after wave of ball-pressure and double-team traps, and her final stat line (she scored 13 points but also missed 13 free throws) left her frustrated.

But in Friday’s rematch, Suarez didn’t disappoint  She scored 18 points and, despite the 46-40 loss, led the Tigers to perhaps their best performance of the season. Suarez burst onto the college recruiting radar last year with a number of strong performances on the AAU circuit, including at the USJN National Championships in Upper Marlboro last spring when Suarez was competing with Team Sol. That tournament, Wilson coach Eric White said, transformed Suarez from a player with no college interest into an intriguing young prospect with two years left of high school basketball to play.

“That tournament…it really put me on the map,” Suarez said.

Schools like Missouri and Michigan have inquired about Suarez, White said, as well as Norfolk State and Boston University, although Suarez hasn’t tabled an offer yet.

“I’m really excited about it,” Suarez said of the interest. “I’m going to college and playing basketball…playing at the next level.”

But for all the individual acclaim Suarez won last year on the AAU trail, and for all she figures to win this spring and summer with Team Sol, her body of work this winter with Wilson might be just as important in the outcome of her recruitment. Suarez, a first-team All-DCIAA East selection, averaged 16.1 points per game and played all five positions for White throughout the season.

“I think I progressed tremendously,” Suarez said. “I think I became a better offensive player and leader for my team.”

Her natural position in college may end up being shooting guard, but Suarez was counted on to play in the post this season for the Tigers, and moreover, she was looked upon as the backbone of a team that started the year 2-10. Sprinkled into those losses were promising performances, including a four-point loss to Dunbar (Balt.) and a five-point loss to Forest Park. The Tigers flipped the switch after the New Year, winning 17 straight games leading up to last week’s DCIAA title game against Woodson. The eight-time DCIAA championWarriors remain the benchmark for Wilson’s team next season, Suarez said, and the coming year will require a lot of work to get to Woodson’s level.

“I feel like we’re going to be able to repeat what we’ve done,” Suarez said, “and possibly win the DCIAA championship. Upset H.D.”

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