The 10th-ranked Wilmington Christian Warriors (5-1, 3-0 Diamond State) earned equal parts hard-earned win and lesson Friday night against St. Mark’s (2-1). Let a team hang in long enough, and they just might get you in the end.
Maintaining control throughout the game, the Warriors hung on through a barrage of clutch Spartan plays in the final minutes, winning 47-44.
“I was extremely worried,” Wilmington Christian coach DaQuan Gibson said. “We’re generally a lot more disciplined, a lot more focused than that. I think some guys got lost in the moment a little bit, and that’s easy to understand. This is a big game.”
Lanky 6-foot-4 Nathan Hickman led all scorers with 27 points. The game’s ending was familiar to him.
“It reminded [me] too much of last year,” the Warriors senior said. “It came down to the wire. They hit a 3 to send it into overtime, and we ended up losing a tough one. I think this win is going to help us out a lot.”
St. Mark’s Michael Williams’ strong low post spin move pulled the team within five at 43-38.
Spartans senior Keith Hicklin got the crowd amped after banking a 3 to make it 45-41 with 42 seconds to go. The senior capitalized off a one-and-one miss, racing the length of the court before making a twisting 3-pointer to pull within one.
Alec Vasquez-Ciarrocchi got loose for a wide-open layup on the next possession, forcing the Spartans to hurry a shot. After the Warriors missed a one-and-one, St. Mark’s missed a desperation 3.
The game got off to sluggish play on both ends as the Warriors went into the locker room up 22-11.
Hickman showcased his versatility in the third period, shooting from the perimeter and displaying a smooth mid-range game. The Spartans got a boost from Williams, who contributed seven of his 13 total points to keep the squad alive heading into the fourth quarter.
In his fourth varsity season, Hickman has yet to play past the first round of the DIAA tournament.
“Games like this – these were the games we weren’t winning last year and the year before when we got knocked out of the first round,” he said. “I think toughing this one out is really going to help.”