The Red Dragons hung on to beat Wilson, which had rallied from 14 points back.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Ron Price sat on the bleachers overlooking the War Memorial Gymnasium floor Tuesday at Niles High.
Fifteen minutes had passed since his Red Dragons held on for a 58-57 victory over Wilson. The coach glanced down to an acquaintance, waved and yelled, "It was a wild one!"
Wilson (5-6) stormed back from a 14-point deficit and threw a scare into the state's 11th-ranked Division II team.
But the Red Dragons (8-1), despite struggles from the foul line and an injury to their big man, avoided the upset -- just barely.
"That's our team -- we're up and down all year long. We look good, we look bad," Wilson coach Mark Cherol said. "But we didn't give up, and we had a chance to win at the end."
Ignites Redmen: Wilson senior Ellis Moody put on a fourth-quarter shooting display to bring his team back, but he couldn't finish his biggest shot of the night.
Moody scored 13 points in the final quarter and finished with a game-high 19, but his potential game-winner didn't fall. His long-range shot bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
"When the game's on the line, he steps it up a bit," Cherol said of Moody, who launched his final shot with .8 seconds remaining.
Price said, "You hope you play good containment defense, and hopefully it's one shot and out. With that type of game, usually it's the last one with the ball [who wins]. With the ball in the air at .8, I thought it was in."
Intensifying their fullcourt pressure, the Redmen scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cut an 11-point deficit to two, 47-45.
They gained their first lead (50-49) when Moody converted on a drive through the lane with five minutes to play.
Jason Shelton's ensuing three-point play gave Niles the lead for good, and the Red Dragons survived despite shooting 6-of-18 from the foul line, including 3-of-9 in the fourth quarter.
"By missing free throws, you keep teams alive," Price said. "I think we would have put them away if it wasn't for the free throw line, and it's something we need to get better at."
Leading the Dragons: Senior Tyler Spencer scored a team-high 18 points for Niles, which gained its biggest lead (27-13) early in the second quarter, while Shelton added 16. Price also praised the play of junior Vince Gatta off the bench.
The Red Dragons won with 6-foot-4 senior center Dave Soda hobbling on a sprained ankle, which he suffered in the first quarter. Price said Soda, who played sparingly the rest of the way, is questionable for Friday's game at Salem.
Wilson 6-5 freshman Antwaun Johnson scored seven of his 10 points in the second half. He added 11 rebounds and two blocks.