Reading High boys basketball earns key win over Wilson

Feb. 2—The tightly-contested race for the Division I title in the Berks Boys Basketball Conference has featured several close matchups throughout the regular season.

Thursday night's matchup between two sides vying for supremacy in the division proved to follow that trend, as Reading High secured a 50-44 victory against Wilson at West Lawn in a neck-and-neck game.

Both the Red Knights (7-3, 13-7) and the Bulldogs (6-4, 13-7) were tied with Muhlenberg for first place in Berks I heading into the game.

With the Muhls' 81-62 win over Daniel Boone on Thursday night, Reading High and Muhlenberg (7-3, 13-7) will play for the divison title on Tuesday night at the Geigle.

"It feels pretty good," Red Knights freshman Jeremiah Camara said after the victory over Wilson. "We played as a team and we stayed together.

"(Winning Berks I) would give our team a lot of confidence heading into counties and everything else."

Camara scored a career-high 16 points for Reading High, including 10 in the second half, to help lead the Red Knights to the victory. He was also 4-for-4 from the foul line.

Reading High senior Nick Chapman scored 11 points, with nine coming in the fourth quarter to help put the game away.

Trailing 38-36 with 5:32 left in the game, Wilson allowed the Red Knights to go on an 8-0 run down the stretch, and what had been an evenly-contested matchup got away from the Bulldogs.

Chapman, who was 5-for-7 from the foul line, went 4-for-4 during the 8-0 run, and Camara provided a field goal and two successful foul shots to help create enough separation for the win.

"Keeping our composure," Jeremiah Camara said was one of the keys to victory. "Whenever we stay together, we'll pull it off and anything is possible."

For Reading High coach Francis Camara, his team's well-rounded offense stepped up as its leading scorer, senior Yadiel Cruz, was held to just three points. Cruz entered the night averaging a league-leading 22.6 points per game.

"We always talk about how any five can get it done," Francis Camara said. "It doesn't matter who is on the floor because we all work so hard in the gym. Obviously, Yadiel is averaging (about) 25 — the kid is amazing. But today the ball just didn't go in for him, which was totally fine because he got teammates who have his back.

"That's what we talk about all the time: we always talk about embracing your brother's success. So today, Yadiel didn't score as much as he normally does, but we got guys that stepped up. Jeremiah stepped, Dae Dae (Daquan Burgess) hit some big 3s, Nick Chapman. All of our guys stepped up and made big plays here and there when we needed it."

As Francis Camara alluded, Burgess made some momentum-shifting 3-pointers in what was a back-and-forth third quarter.

After a one-possession game saw five lead changes and the Bulldogs take a 27-26 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the third, Burgess made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Red Knights a five-point lead.

Burgess finished the game with six points.

"The thing about Daquan is, if he sees the ball go in, he's liable to make the next 10," Francis Camara said. "So as soon as he made that shot I called a play to go right back to him and then he made the next one. So I encourage him every day, I tell him all the time to shoot the ball. His teammates tell him all the time to shoot the ball. It's beautiful watching the confidence they have in each other."

As it had done for most of the game, Wilson hung around and cut the deficit to 32-31 heading into the fourth quarter, courtesy of a buzzer-beating two-point jumper by junior Cam Zullinger.

The Bulldogs' largest lead was a 20-16 lead in the second quarter. They did not trail by more than five at any point prior to the decisive 8-0 run in the fourth quarter.

Though Wilson missed several shots during the final five minutes of the game, Bulldogs coach Matt Coldren said he was proud of his team's efforts, especially on the defensive end.

"I thought the effort was fantastic," Coldren said, "I thought defensively we did a really good job. We held them under fifty and if you told me (before the game) we gave Reading 50 points I'd have been like, 'Fantastic.'

"Unfortunately, it was a combination of Reading's pressure and us getting tired. We got dry there in the fourth quarter offensively. But I'm proud of our guys. I thought we defended really well for the most part and we battled the whole time. If we had made a couple (more) shots, it would have been a different game."

Junior Madyx Gruber scored a team-high 12 points for Wilson. Fellow junior Luke Levan scored 11 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Reading High senior Malik Osumanu had a team-high 11 rebounds and scored seven points.

Osumanu came up with a key block in the fourth quarter with four minutes to go before Chapman made two of his fourth-quarter free throws to give the Red Knights' a 42-36 lead, their largest of the night thus far.

With Wilson trailing by 10, Gruber scored a field goal with 1:05 left to make it 46-38 and stop Reading High's run.

"Our defense steps up in big moments," Francis Camara said. "Average wise we're not where we want to be with the numbers, but the one thing we do is in big moments, our defense responds. We find a way to make plays in big moments and that's what I love about our team and I love to continue to watch the growth."

Growing and perhaps peaking at the right time, Francis Camara emphasized his team's toughness and its ability to pull out victories in big games. Reading High has won six of its last seven games, with four league wins over that span.

"It means a lot, watching guys continue to battle through their adversity and continue to respond in tough moments," Francis Camara said. "It just shows the sort of toughness that is needed to win down the stretch anyway. I feel like we've been playing playoff games for the past week and a half anyway, so I'm just glad that my team continues to have an opportunity to have these experiences and they continue to respond. That's the amazing part about it."