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Wilson hangs on for victory against Reading High, wins Berks boys basketball championship

With his team up by one with under 10 seconds to go in the Berks Boys Basketball Conference championship game, Wilson coach Matt Coldren had a clear message for his Bulldogs: Believe.

“The message I’ve been giving them the last two weeks is: I believe in you, I love you and believe in yourself because you belong here,” Coldren said.

After falling to Reading High twice in the regular season, fourth-seeded Wilson used faith in itself and a key defensive stop in the closing moments to earn a 54-53 victory over the second-seeded Red Knights on Friday night at Santander Arena.

Wilson's against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The Wilson Bulldogs pose with the championship trophy after defeating Reading High in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

The win gives the Bulldogs (17-8) their first county title since defeating Reading High 55-53 in the 2021 championship game. It is their 12th in program history.

“Reading beat us twice in the regular season and we knew we had to come out firing,” junior center Luke Levan said. “It was a tough battle, but we won it in the end. This is what we worked all year for.”

Wilson's Luke Levan scores on a hook shot against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Wilson’s Luke Levan scores on a hook shot against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

The game-winning stop came courtesy of Madyx Gruber, as the junior deflected a backdoor pass from Reading High sophomore Weshly Rosario intended for senior Nick Chapman.

With 2.3 seconds to go, Chapman inbounded to Weshly Rosario from the Bulldogs’ half of the court. Rosario then immediately dished it toward the low post where Chapman was heading, but Gruber was able to dive and prevent the connection, sealing the victory for Wilson.

Wilson's Madyx Gruber knocks the ball away from Reading High's Nick Chapman in the final seconds of the Bulldogs' victory in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Wilson’s Madyx Gruber knocks the ball away from Reading High’s Nick Chapman in the final seconds of the Bulldogs’ victory in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“I knew they were gonna try and get to the basket,” Gruber said. “Nick faked me out a little bit and I was a bit behind, but I just dove for it and got my hand on it.

“It feels so great (winning),” Gruber said. “To do it with these guys is special.”

The special victory was hanging on by a thread in the waning seconds after sophomore Correll Akings missed two free throws, keeping Wilson’s lead at just one point and giving the Red Knights (17-8) the ball with eight seconds left.

However, with two fouls to give, the Bulldogs utilized both of them to force multiple inbound plays and take nearly six seconds off the clock.

“Coach (Coldren) had complete confidence in us and then Madyx made a great play,” Levan said.

Levan tied fellow junior Tom McFadden with a team-high 12 points. Levan also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Gruber finished with 10 points and led the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter with four.

Wilson's Tom McFadden hits a 3-pointer against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Wilson’s Tom McFadden hits a 3-pointer against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Gruber gave Wilson the lead it would keep for good on a driving layup along the baseline to make it 52-51 with 2:25 left. Levan added two free throws moments later before freshman Jeremiah Camara scored a contested layup to put Reading High back within one.

Senior Yadiel Cruz scored a game-high 21 points for the Red Knights, but was held to just two in the fourth. Cruz led all scorers at the half with 13 points to help give his team a 32-31 lead. Chapman finished with 11 points.

Reading High's Nick Chapman drives against Wilson in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Reading High’s Nick Chapman drives against Wilson in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

According to Reading High coach Francis Camara, a closely contested game came down to one team making the bigger plays when it mattered most.

“Wilson played an amazing game today,” Francis Camara said. “We had a chance to win at the end of the game and we just didn’t make the right reads in the right place and Wilson did. We turned the ball over, they capitalized on it and that was pretty much it.”

The Bulldogs held a 44-41 lead going into the fourth. The Red Knights took their last lead of the game when senior Malik Osumanu scored from mid-range to make it 51-50 with three minutes to go.

Reading High went on a 6-1 run late in the third thanks to six points by Cruz that cut the Red Knights’ deficit to one at 42-41. Gruber scored the last points of the third.

Wilson's Madyx Gruber shoots a jumper against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Wilson’s Madyx Gruber shoots a jumper against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

For Coldren, who now has five county titles, the resilience that propelled Wilson forward is the result of one of the toughest county playoffs runs the coach said he has experienced.

The Bulldogs defeated fifth-seeded and 2023 Berks runner-up Exeter 74-51 in the quarterfinals, before defeating top-seeded Berks Catholic 59-46 in the semifinals.

Wilson coach Matt Coldren waves the net following the Bulldogs' victory against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Wilson coach Matt Coldren waves the net following the Bulldogs’ victory against Reading High in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“We had a great December but in January we didn’t grow like we should have and that was on me,” Coldren said. “We made some changes and we had a meeting, and my message to them was, listen, we’re just gonna keep showing up. We’re gonna show up, we’re gonna put the work in and people are eventually gonna wish we didn’t show up.

“And that’s what happened. Listen, I don’t know if I’ve coached a team that won a championship and had to play the three tough teams (in a row) like this team did.”

With a Berks championship trophy in hand and a four-game winning streak to build off of, Wilson will look to ride its momentum heading into a first-round District 3 Class 6A road matchup with Cedar Crest on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

In short, Levan said he believes there is more to come for the surging Bulldogs.

“We’re not done.”

The Wilson Bulldogs pose with the championship trophy after defeating Reading High in the Berks final on Friday in the Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The Wilson Bulldogs celebrate after defeating Reading High in the Berks final on Friday at Santander Arena. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)


Source: Berkshire mont

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