Overcoming a hot start by Kennedy and the hot shooting and rebounding of star forward Mitch Penner, Wilson almost pulled off another stunning comeback, but ultimately fell 65-62 to the Lancers on Feb. 20 in the 3A bi-district final at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
"I don't think we would lose to that team if we learned how to take the punch in the first quarter," said Wilson head coach Dave Alwert. "We've got to learn how to recover faster. We recovered, but it was a little too late."
Penner, who finished with a game-high 31 points and 13 rebounds, got the Lancers off to a 13-6 lead with two inside baskets and a three-pointer midway through the first quarter. Daviyonta Booth and Kevin Johnson added late three-pointers in the period, but Kennedy held a 21-12 lead after the first thanks to dominance on the offensive boards.
"We got killed on the boards, and we've got to work on that," said Johnson, who led the Rams with 21 points. "We're a team that prides ourselves on our defense, and we kind of lacked today. I think that's why we lost."
Freshman Ivy Smith led the Rams to within 24-18 with two early three-pointers in the second quarter, but the Lancers continued to dominate the interior, as Cole Madison's inside bucket with four minutes left put Kennedy back up 30-18.
"We could have done a better job on (Madison)," Alwert said. "Where we got killed is on the glass. They exposed us with their size. We didn't collapse and block out as a team and it cost us."
Pheonix Waters led the Rams back to within 32-30 with a three-pointer early in the third, and after Penner drained two more shots inside, Madison tipped in Smith's runner with three minutes left to keep the Rams close, at 42-39. Johnson finished out the third with a three-pointer and a jumper with a second remaining, trimming it to a 50-48 deficit heading into the fourth.
"It's all in our hearts," said Johnson of the comeback effort. "We have a team with a lot of pride, we all love each other, so we just go out fighting. If we're going to lose, we're going to give everything we have."
Waters hit a three-pointer to get within 58-57 with five minutes left, and Johnson drained another three with 13 seconds remaining to cut it to 63-62. But Smith forced up a three at the buzzer that missed, ending the chance of a last-second stunner.
"At the end of the game I probably should have put one of our seniors in that spot," said Alwert, adding he thought that Smith was fouled on the play. "I think the last three minutes we hurt ourselves with zero possessions. We didn't get a shot off and that hurt us."
Smith finished with 14 points for the Rams, while Andraell Fountain added 13 points. The Rams now head to the state regionals, where they will face Lake Washington at Rogers High School on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.