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Reading High hangs on and completes come-from-behind victory against Wilson in boys basketball

Jan. 5—After Reading High suffered a 24-point loss to Exeter in a Berks I-II crossover boys' basketball contest on Tuesday, first-year coach Francis Camara's team was determined to bounce back with a stronger performance.

"These guys took it (the recent loss to the Eagles) personally," Camara said. "At the end of the day, we didn't play well in the last game. We didn't finish well in the last game. Our guys wanted to respond."

And respond they did — in dramatic fashion, no less — as the Red Knights and Bulldogs squared off in a key Berks I matchup that came down to the wire Thursday night at the Geigle.

Holding a two-point lead with 31 seconds left, Wilson inbounded following a timeout only to see a game-tying shot attempt by junior guard Madyx Gruber blocked by 6-5 senior forward Malik Osumanu that preserved Reading High's bounce-back 54-48 victory over Wilson.

The block led to an easy breakaway layup by fellow senior Daquan Burgess who gave Reading High the lead moments prior after grabbing a steal and making a layup with 1:55 remaining.

"In the huddle he (Francis Camara) was talking about stops," Osumanu said. "A stop was gonna get us the win. When I saw him coming down the lane, I saw the ball going up, saw my opportunity and I took it.

"And when they got the ball back again, I saw another opportunity, blocked the ball, was able to take care of it and win the game."

Osumanu came up with another block on the Bulldogs' ensuing possession (his third of the final minute) before senior guard Yadiel Cruz put in another breakaway layup to close out the scoring.

Cruz finished with a game-high 17 points for Reading High, with 13 coming during the second half in which the Red Knights (2-1, 6-4) trailed by as many as eight. He also had a team-high 10 rebounds.

"Keeping our composure," Camara said as a key to earning the comeback victory. "We got young guys that haven't been in these situations a lot. And in past games, we lost our composure and we didn't finish the game the right way.

"Today, we kept our composure, we responded when we got hit, and we fought back. We stayed together and finished the battle together."

Midway through the third, Reading High went on a momentum-shifting 13-5 run using relentless full-court pressure after trailing 34-26.

Wilson turned it over on its final possessions of the quarter allowing the Red Knights to score six straight and tie the game at 39 heading into the fourth.

Keeping its composure down the stretch indeed, Reading High limited its turnovers in the second half as the Red Knights turned it over just twice in the fourth quarter and five times in the third. The same could not be said for the Bulldogs as they had six turnovers in the fourth quarter and six in the third.

In the first half, Reading High had seven turnovers and Wilson (2-1, 8-3) had six.

For coach Matt Coldren, turnovers and a lack of discipline on defense proved to be too costly for the Bulldogs.

"Reading outplayed us tonight; we were awful," Coldren said. "We turned the ball over way too many times from guys who have been playing lots of minutes for us this year and I felt like defensively we were really bad. Guys would drive and we would have tunnel vision and give up easy buckets. Kudos to Reading. They took advantage of all of our mistakes.

"I was not happy at all. I was very disappointed in our play tonight. We've had multiple guards who have been playing a lot of minutes and had up to seven or eight turnovers and you can't win games with that. So it was disappointing."

As Coldren alluded, Wilson allowed the Red Knights to make the most of offensive possessions down low as Reading High went 1-for-11 from behind the arc.

With 5:30 remaining in the fourth, sophomore guard Weshly Rosario found an open Jeremiah Camara making a run under the rim on a slick no-look pass for an easy layup. The play gave the Red Knights the lead at 44-42 after they had been trailing since having a 12-11 lead late in the first.

Boxing out and earning rebounds were pivotal second half adjustments for Rosario and Osumanu who said that limiting the Bulldogs to one-and-done possessions was key in tightening up for a comeback.

"We would go possessions and were having to play defense three or four times because we weren't able to box out and they would capitalize on their third or fourth opportunity," Osumanu said. "So at halftime we talked boxing out and limiting them to one shot and done (opportunities) so we could get out and run and be able to try and come back."

"At halftime we needed to get better at boxing out because they were winning every basket and we needed to fix it." Rosario said.

Though both sides were coming off a loss — a 47-42 loss at Hempfield for Wilson and a 79-55 loss at home against Exeter for Reading High — neither the Bulldogs nor Red Knights showed any signs of being sluggish in the first quarter.

Six lead changes were exchanged and neither team held more than a four point lead. Wilson led 13-12 after the first eight minutes.

Rosario did the heavy lifting for the Red Knights during the first half and scored six points in the first and four in the second. Rosario led all scorers at the half as Reading High trailed 26-22.

Rosario's presence was necessary as the Bulldogs played strong defense through Tommy Hunsicker and Tom McFadden on Cruz. Cruz was held to just one shot in the second quarter, a missed 3-pointer, and scored four points in the first.

The Bulldogs made three 3-pointers in the first half while the Red Knights were 0-9 from beyond the arc in the first half. Each team made one 3-pointer in the second half.

Junior Luke Levan and sophomore Correll Akings each had a team-high 13 points for Wilson. Levan had a game-high 11 rebounds.

"Wilson's a tough team, a well-coached team and he (Coldren) does amazing things with his personnel," Francis Camara said. "Levan looked like a monster; he's a strong kid. Their guards do a great job of setting up their offense, creating for themselves and everyone else. So we just had to do a good job of slowing down number number 23 (Aikings), and trying to force other guys to be playmakers and put put them in roles that they're not used to doing. I think we did a good job of that today and we just tightened up defensively and stayed disciplined."

For Francis Camara, the win is an exemplification of the passion and fierceness Reading High wants to put out during each contest, especially following a loss against another local contender in Exeter on Tuesday.

With another tough Berks I matchup on the horizon in Tuesday's matchup with Muhlenberg at Laureldale, the Red Knights are looking to continue to show the competition that their strength comes from their resilience.

"We just tried to do a good job of messing up their initial reads and their sets and and trying to make their ball handlers uncomfortable," Francis Camara said. "They wanted to show the toughness, the character, the heart; everything that makes up the city of Reading.

"We talk about how everything runs so deep in the Reading community, right? It's because of the heart. Everyone has so much heart and they fight through so much adversity on a daily basis. That's what our boys are doing. We're just fighting through adversity. Everybody wants to write us off. Our boys are fine and we're taking it one day at a time."