Last Saturday, Wilson Coach Eric White was worried about the pressure his back court was going to face against Ballou — and by the second half, his guards were struggling with the matchups. His adjustment was simple. He went to his tallest player, and best post player, Mercedes Suarez — and told the lanky 6-1 junior to run the point for the rest of the game.
It was a brilliant move by White, whose team pulled away late in a hard-fought 41-33 win, Wilson’s ninth straight victory. And Suarez relished the opportunity. She scored just 10 points, below her season average of 15.2, but the experiment gave her a newfound sense of the future.
“This is my first, like, experience playing point guard,” said Suarez, who usually plays power forward or center. “It helps me with my game . . . I know in college I’m going to have to play point guard.”
White said there is no ceiling on Suarez’s future — and he has relied heavily on his five-tool standout during the Tigers’ run this winter, which has been tumultuous at times. Wilson lost four seniors from last season’s team, and lost seven of its first eight games. Suarez had some terrific moments individually during the skid — she scored 29 in a loss to Forest Park, and 20 in a close loss to Carroll — but it has been her flexibility on both ends of the floor that has made the difference in Wilson’s turnaround. Proving that she can play all five positions, for example, and defend smaller, quicker players on the perimeter — has marked a corner turned for a Suarez, who didn’t play basketball her freshman season.
“Last year when I played, I didn’t really have the confidence to score,” Suarez said. “I put a lot of time and dedication [in], so I can be better.”
Wilson (12-11, 4-0) now sits atop the DCIAA West, but has plenty of work left to do. In recent years, White has observed burn-out with his team as February approaches, which is a product of the quality of teams in the league, he said. He hasn’t noticed it this season, though, with just six games left. The ultimate goal, he asserts, is to beat H.D. Woodson, which would have to come in the conference tournament.
White was in attendance during H.D. Woodson’s loss to Riverdale Baptist on Saturday — and even in witnessing a loss, he knew then that his team would have to play nearly perfect to have a chance against a team of the Warriors’ caliber. But behind Suarez, Wilson is as hot as any DCIAA team at the moment, and showing little indication that it will taper off.
“She’s a basketball player,” White said of Suarez. “She can pretty much go where she wants to go, because she’s that talented.”