Where there’s a Wilson, there’s a way
DAYTON — Zach Wilson scored 17 of his career-high 33 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Amity Warriors over Dayton, 62-56, Tuesday night.
The game seemed destined to come down to the wire. Dayton (5-5, 0-1) led by one point after one, the game was tied at half and Dayton led Amity (9-2, 1-0 Class 3A West Valley League) 43-41 after three. But Wilson’s late surge negated the need for any last-second heroics.
“It really could have gone either way,” Amity coach Justin Amaya said. “Zach Wilson made play after play down that stretch. That’s when your stud is supposed to show up and he had a great game.”
Dayton led 49-43 with just under six minutes to go when Wilson forced Dayton starting guard Devin Nowlin to commit his fifth foul. Wilson – who, along with his fellow Amity seniors, had never beaten rival Dayton – then led a 19-5 rally with five driving layups and seven free throws down the stretch.
“You could see he willed us to the win today,” Amaya said.
Amaya said after the game it was Amity’s third win over Dayton in boys basketball in the last 20 years.
“I don’t think we really felt butterflies because we’ve been here before and know we can keep doing this and giving it our best,” Wilson said. “I love close games, it’s fun. Dayton’s a good team, I know all those guys so it’s fun to play against them.”
Lance Nelson gave another big rebounding effort, finishing with 16 points and 20 rebounds – his second game in a row with at least 20 rebounds. Most of his points came in the first half.
Dayton head coach Ron Hop said he was pleased with the effort of his young team and that they just lacked execution down the stretch.
“Tonight we played a spirited game and that’s what I asked them to do,” he said. “We played better than them for three and a half quarters.”
He pointed toward a four-possession stretch in the fourth quarter, which started with Dayton up four, that entailed three hurried 3-pointers and a left-handed runner - all misses.
“That’s just not acceptable when you up or you’re tied. You have to have a little bit more patience and poise,” Hop said.
Nowlin and Zach Bernards combined for 14 of Dayton’s 17 second-quarter points to head off Nelson’s play. Bernards finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Nowlin scored eight points before fouling out.
“Losing Devin, it definitely didn’t help,” Hop said.
In the third, it was Zach Spink who caught fire for the Pirates, scoring 11 of his team-high 13 points in the period, including three 3-pointers.
The half started with a dunk by Nelson off a trick play. Amity lined up in a box under the Pirate’s basket – bluffing which side the ball would go to. Nelson raced past the Pirate defenders and caught the inbounds pass wide open for a breakaway dunk.
But before the Warriors could celebrate too much, Spink hit a corner three to help Dayton regain the lead, 31-30.
Senior Corwin Hiatt had 10 points and five rebound and Jarred Ashley had eight points and seven rebounds for the Pirates.
A deep three by Bernards tied the game at 52, breaking a 7-0 Amity (Wilson) run. A Wilson basket on one end was answered by a scoop layup by Spink on the other to knot the score at 54-54 with under two minutes left.
After back-to-back driving layups by Wilson, Bernards missed a shot from behind the arc. Devin McShane dove on the loose ball and called timeout. On the ensuing inbounds, Wilson got behind the defense for a breakaway layup that sealed the game.
“We didn’t do a good job hedging the ball in that fourth quarter and it showed,” Hop said. “(Wilson) is a good athlete, but he’s not a good pure shooter, and we let the guy go right by us. … He couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean and we’re letting him go right by us. How is that possible?”
While earning a rare win over rival Dayton was a big one, Amaya said, it’s just one game.
“First to get this off our back is good, but it’s not the ultimate goal,” Amaya said.
Hop said his young team – which starts a freshmen, three sophomores and a senior – just needs to manage their play better on both ends of the court to take the next step.
“Amity’s a good team and we just didn’t execute down the stretch,” Hop said. “We need to start beating some teams that are supposed to beat us … or we’re not going to go anywhere.”
Amity hosts Willamina tonight while Dayton plays at Sheridan. Tipoff is set for 7:30 for both games.