When it was finally over, when the buzzer sounded and the scoreboard showed a two-point Wilson lead now carved into school history, Ayinde Hikim rose toward the rim and, with a big smile, threw in a dunk that triggered the celebration.
Wilson had won its first D.C. State Athletic Association championship with a 66-64 double-overtime victory over St. John’s at George Washington University on Saturday. The No. 11 Tigers (33-10) can now pair that with the D.C. Interstate Athletic Association championship they won in February. To win the state title, the public school team beat two of the area’s premier private-school squads: No. 2 Gonzaga in the semifinal, and No. 17 St. John’s (22-11) in the final after the teams wrestled for 32 minutes, then four more, then four more after that before Wilson had the last say.
So when the win was finally Wilson’s, the court was the Tigers’, too. Hikim, a senior point guard who scored a game-high 21 points, slammed in that after-the-horn dunk. Wilson Coach Angelo Hernandez, who lost his tie and jacket during a heated third quarter, raised both his arms in front of the bench. Junior guard Jay Heath Jr., who added 15 points to his team’s effort, jumped up and down at center court as if there were a trampoline situated beneath his feet.
“We did it,” Heath said. “That’s all I could keep thinking in that moment. We did it. We did it. We did it.”
After trailing by seven at halftime, Wilson had almost all of the second-half momentum. Wilson also had almost all of the crowd, with its student section perched just behind the St. John’s bench and punctuating each Tigers basket with a booming cheer. And Wilson had an answer in the final minute of the fourth quarter after St. John’s nudged ahead by two and needed just one stop to seal a regulation victory.
Instead, Hikim darted right, turned the corner at the elbow and finished an uncontested lay-in to knot the score. That boiled the championship into four extra minutes, but even that could not separate the two teams.
On came a second overtime with four more minutes of unrelenting defense and unyielding pace and unforgiving noise. That style suited the Tigers, who smiled whenever the game was at its tightest or the gym was at its loudest. Heath nailed a step-back three to push Wilson ahead by five. Then St. John’s made one last run that, when all the minutes and fouls and points were added up, left the Cadets one bucket short of being the DCSAA champions.
“We’re moving forward,” Hernandez said. “Last year was DCIAA. This year was DCIAA and states. We did what we wanted to do. It’s a big step. I don’t know where to take us next, but I know right now I’m overwhelmed with a feeling I have never felt.”