This Wilson High School boys basketball team might be the one that makes coach Dave Alwert go bald from pulling his hair out.
The Rams have obvious talent — Emmitt Matthews Jr. had four fast-break dunks in the third quarter —yet they seem to get in their own way.
They quickly built a 10-point lead against North Thurston in the second quarter, but then trailed by two entering halftime. The teams were tied entering the fourth quarter before Wilson pulled away for a 69-62 victory in the first round of the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament on Wednesday at Timberline High School.
“We locked in mentally and physically,” Matthews said. “We went into halftime and we had to switch how we were playing mentally. We had to play the way we play.”
So Matthews took over. He got an alley-oop from point guard Londrell Hamilton, then an offensive rebound and putback, a steal and a dunk, and then Hamilton threw it off the backboard and Matthews dunked it with two hands to give Wilson a 46-38 lead.
He later had one more thunderous left-handed jam that forced North Thurston to take a timeout as Matthews scored 13 points in the third quarter. Matthews finished with 25 points.
“I think that put a fire in our bellies,” said Hamilton, who finished with 13 points. “That’s when we started getting energy and everybody started working together.”
Wilson advances to face Kelso — for a guaranteed 3A state tournament berth — at 6 p.m. Friday at Olympia High School.
North Thurston heads to a loser-out game against Gig Harbor — which beat North Thurston both times they’ve played this season — at 6 p.m. Saturday at Capital.
But the purple Rams of Lacey did not go quietly against the red and blue Rams of Tacoma, even though North Thurston lost each of its eight meetings against Wilson when they were counterparts in the 3A Narrows League during the past four seasons.
Clay Christian scored 20 of his 30 points in the first half, and North Thurston wiped away a Wilson 13-3 lead and a Wilson 23-13 lead to take a 34-32 advantage when Michael Sallee hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
Alwert said he didn’t remember that Christian on last season’s North Thurston team.
“He was so tough tonight,” Alwert said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and he crashed the glass and used his body really well.”
Christian said he thought Wilson had underestimated North Thurston.
“We thought we were right where we should be at halftime,” Christian said. “We knew coming into this game we could beat this team.
“We knew they were taking us lesser than what we know we are.”
But North Thurston turned it over on four of five possessions late in the fourth quarter, and Wilson’s Michael Doss hit a 3-pointer to give his team a 64-56 lead with less than two minutes to play.
Now Wilson — a team that’s struggled at times to play with chemistry and includes only four players who were on last season’s squad — is one win away from clinching a berth to at least the regional round of the 3A state tournament.
“I’ve never been to the (Tacoma) Dome,” Matthews said. “It’s something I really want to do. We’re fighting for it.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677