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The Anthony Atkinson era of the Wilson Preparatory Academy boys basketball team began on a positive note with a 72-24 victory on Tuesday night over The Ephiphany School in a game that was never close.
“It was fun, man,” Atkinson said with a smile of relief after his Tigers began the first-year coach’s career on a high note. “It was a lot of fun, a lot of excitement. Like I told the guys, it’s always good to have the first game, first coaching job off to a 1-0 start.”
The Tigers came out early and took control from the start, jumping out to an 8-0 lead before the Falcons’ first point came on a free throw. Epiphany struggled from the field from the outset, failing to make a field goal until a minute was left in the first quarter — and underscoring a night when baskets for the team would be few and far between.
By that first field goal for the visitors, Wilson Prep had already leapt out to a 16-2 lead that it extended to 18 in the final 60 seconds of the quarter.
When the second quarter began, the Falcons started what turned out to be their best effort, 16 points across eight minutes. It was not enough, though, as Wilson Prep put up 22 more to take a 26-point lead into the half.
Eric Wynn, who finished with 15 points on the night, said his team played so well early because basketball season was finally here after a long period of hard work.
“In the offseason, we worked out really, really hard,” Wynn said. “We really earned this, so when it came time for game time, we just went off.”
Wynn and Nasir Blackston combined to lead the Tigers in scoring, putting the team ahead so much that everyone on the roster found at least a couple minutes by the end. Blackston scored a game-high 23 points, the majority of which came in the first half.
“I need to work on a couple things, but I was happy my teammates helped me and that’s the reason that I really scored,” Blackston said.
Atkinson noted that although Epiphany was held to a minimum in the first half, the second half, when Wilson Prep allowed just six points, was when the defense really took over.
While many of the Falcons’ shots were not high-percentage, the Tigers’ defense didn’t allow much to be found near the basket and held Epiphany to 21% shooting from the field.
The Falcons did not score a field goal in the third quarter and made their first basket of the half with 6:30 left in the game. The defensive effort was something Atkinson liked seeing in game one.
“I loved it. The effort was there, it was just little things, playing in the passing lane, reaching too much,” Atkinson said. “I think in the second half they only scored six points and that’s our staple, to start out with defense. The first half we let them get to the paint a little too much, but like I said, we were very hard on them defensively because that’s what we focus on. We spend more than 45 minutes in an hour and a half practice focusing on our defense.”
While the defense took over, the offense increased the pace, putting up 48 second-half points, many which came from players on the bench.
The Tigers led by 43 by the end of the third quarter, but kept pushing, finishing the game winning by 48.
Atkinson knows there will be plenty harder games ahead, but it felt good to start the season, and his coaching career, with a victory.
“The first game you always want to come out and put out a good show,” Atkinson said smiling. “At the end of the day, I’m very proud of them. We’re going to be very good down the road.”
The epiphany school (24)
McFadyn 2, Golden 6, Breasure 6, Rose 4, Chrise 4, Liland 2
Wilson Prep (72)
Blackston 23, Land 6, J. Johnson 2, O. Johnson 9, Taft 3, Williams 2, Farmer 2, Wynn 15, Bullock 2, Smith 7.
Score by quarters:
Epiphany 4 14 2 4 — 24
Wilson Prep 22 22 19 9 — 72