DALLAS -- Woodrow Wilson (22-3, 10-1) claimed the District 12-4A title Saturday with a 72-59 win over rival Dallas Hillcrest (21-5, 7-3), which had already notched two wins over Woodrow this season.
“This is what we talked about in June,” post Zach Coleman said. “This is what we expected to happen. We’re not really surprised, we’re excited.”
The key to finally getting over the hump against Hillcrest in the third meeting was the Wildcats' defensive effort against standout Julius Foster.
Foster dropped a team-high 17 against Woodrow in their first meeting during the DISD/Coca-Cola Classic and 12 in the first game of district play, including the game-winning layup as time expired.
Woodrow defensive coach Wendell Thornton decided just minutes before the game to ditch the defensive game plan the team had worked on this week and challenge Foster with a box-and-one defense, which gave Foster a personal escort through the course of the game.
It was a defense that Woodrow had never practiced heading into Saturday’s game.
Guard Trey Washington took on the role of playing Foster’s shadow for the majority of the game, holding Hillcrest's top scorer to just four points in the first half.
“Coach said from the start we were going to get in his grill,” Washington said. “We’re not going to let him beat us again. I just got it in my head that he’s not going to beat us and he’s not going to score. Follow him all over and don’t let him breath.”
The rest of Hillcrest’s squad picked up Foster, trading 3-pointers with Woodrow to stay close and trail 29-23 at the break.
Woodrow came out in the second half with a whole new look on offense, electing to slow the game down into half-court, controlled play rather than the its typical up-tempo transition game.
“We had several plays that we’ve been practicing for a while that we thought, if it got to this point, we would utilize them, and we utilized them a lot today,” coach Pat Washington said. “Zach Coleman was able to get away on a couple of good 3 looks.”
The change allowed Woodrow to utilize its height advantage over Hillcrest, with big man Coleman benefiting from the increased opportunities. Coleman picked up 14 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, which included “splashing” two 3-pointers coming off set plays to the post.
Chance Houston, the third member of Woodrow’s self-proclaimed “Big Three” and “Splash Troopers,” followed Coleman with 15 points and came up big on defense.
“Chance Houston... I can’t say enough about Chance Houston,” Washington said. “He played his butt off today.”
Houston said the effort was worth it to pick up the championship.
“It feels great to be a district champ,” Houston said. “We just did what we had to do. It really feels great -- you’re not tired or anything.”
Woodrow has a three-game lead over Hillcrest with one game left for both teams. Hillcrest falls to third in the district behind 8-3 Dallas Lincoln, which beat Hillcrest twice to gain the tiebreaker if both teams win their final game.
Woodrow can now shift its focus to the playoffs and winning the school’s second state championship, the first coming before the UIL formed in 1938.
“It feels good, but we have other goals that we have set as well,” Washington said. “This is just one goal that we’ve achieved this year that we’ve set for ourselves, and now we have to move on to the next phase of this journey.”