Wilson won the tip and got the ball to point guard Ayinde Hikim. He took two or three dribbles to his left and turned to the basket. He lofted the ball toward the hoop.
“Backdoor!” yelled a voice from the Gonzaga bench.
But it was too late. Tigers forward Ricardo Lindo came off a screen and already was in the air. He threw down the alley-oop, and the crowd at McDonough Arena went wild.
The Tigers seemed to ride that momentum all game, playing with aggression, athleticism and emotion throughout a 66-63 win over the Eagles in the D.C. State Athletic Association semifinals.
“This was big for us, really big,” Wilson Coach Angelo Hernandez said. “We just wanted to play and see what happened at the end. We’re playing the way we want to play right now, in time for the playoffs.”
The No. 11 Tigers (32-10) finished the first quarter with a six-point lead and pushed it to nine by halftime. Sophomore guard Dimingus Stevens got hot from deep early, not only knocking down shots but also inducing three shooting fouls from beyond the arc. He finished with 25 points.
The second-ranked Eagles (27-8), playing their second game since losing to DeMatha by one point in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship Monday, came back to take a three-point lead in the third quarter, but the Tigers’ pace and emotion defined the fourth quarter.
A deep three-pointer by junior guard Jay Heath gave the Tigers a five-point lead with 10 seconds left and sealed the win.
“I was going for game. I wasn’t about to go for a layup. I was going for game,” Heath said.
In the first boys’ semifinal, third-seeded St. John’s took down Maret, 63-48, to punch its ticket to the final. Sixteen points from both Casey Morsell and Tre Wood helped the Cadets avenge last year’s semifinal loss to the Frogs.
Saturday’s championship game also will be a meeting of two familiar teams on the girls’ side. Georgetown Visitation beat Sidwell Friends, 45-29, thanks in part to a double-double from sophomore Taylor Webster.
On the other side of the bracket, St. John’s defeated District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association champion Anacostia, 83-66. The Cadets jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead and led by 21 at the half. With freshman Azzi Fudd guarding star senior Mya Moye, the Indians had trouble getting their offense going early.
This will be the fifth year in a row that the Cubs and Cadets have met in the DCSAA final. Georgetown Visitation’s only win in that series came back in 2015.
“They play so hard, with no fear,” St. John’s Coach Jonathan Scribner said of the Cubs. “They’ve won so many league tournaments it’s probably getting boring for them, so to knock us off would cap their season in a huge way. They’re going to be super motivated, so we’ll have to come out with the same motivation.”