York, PA - Derek Wilson took coach Troy Sowers' seat for most of Friday night. With the YAIAA boys' basketball championship being decided and William Penn's second-leading scorer out with an ankle injury he suffered a day earlier, Sowers still stood in a good position.
There was no panic.
Wilson, who had dazzled the crowd a few days earlier in a semifinal blowout, sprained his ankle at the beginning of Thursday's practice between games. A normal team might be shaken by such a loss.
The coach simply inserted reserve guard Dai-Quest Casiano into the starting lineup, and Wilson's minutes went elsewhere; mostly to Casiano and senior Ramel Stephens and freshman Trey Shifflett. The result was the same Bearcats win as the other 17 league games that came before it. Only this one earned a YAIAA tournament championship for the second straight year, 57-44, against South Western.
Friday was a night Wilson wanted. He still tried to ice his ankle, hoping he could contribute, but Sowers knew what was best. So did Wilson.
"Better to sit out a county game than a district game," he said.
Wilson still found solace in his teammates' promises. One pact came with his younger brother, sophomore Jahaire Wilson, to grab as many rebounds as he could.
The younger Wilson pulled in 12 of them. For a moment, Jahaire joined his brother on the bench after taking a charge from 6-foot-6 South Western standout Parker Bean and falling hard to the floor with 3:36 left.
Slow to get up, Jahaire was OK. The physical sacrifice was later rewarded with celebratory pictures between the siblings with their family and friends.
That's why Sowers believes this team does what it does.
Why it can annihilate a team one night then drive up to Reading and pull out a close one against in a high-pressure environment.
Why it celebrates some sort of championship, whether it be at the league or district level, year after year since a run to the state finals in 2009.
"It started with Malik (Generett) and those guys," Sowers said in reference to 2009. "You gotta love your teammates to win those close games, and it's true. It's not by luck."
This team is never too high, which could have happened after a 59-point semifinal blowout.
It's never too low, which could have happened with Derek Wilson hurt.
"I have really smart kids," Sowers said.
The coaches -- all William Penn graduates who've been on Sowers' staff all seven years, by the way -- plan the attack. Assistant Clovis Gallon produces a two-page scouting report. Players receive it and study, just like Sowers would demand of his freshmen English students at the school.
"I think they did their homework last night because we played our defense to a T. That's what wins championships," Sowers said.
No wonder Bean had 23 points and 14 rebounds while South Western received little production elsewhere. The Bearcats held star guard Mike Duffy to five points after he had 19 in the semifinals. He didn't register a field-goal attempt until the third quarter, and William Penn's swarming defense either forced or nearly forced 10-second backcourt violations multiple times.
Sowers' formula rarely changes, and neither do the team's results.
"It's the things like touching the lines in practice," said Tavon Parker, referring to conditioning drills, "and loving your teammates that make us a good team. If one player goes down, the team comes closer."
Whether the run can continue after seniors Parker and Derek Wilson graduate, the same could have been asked when Tavon's older brother Kelvin graduated two years ago. Jahaire already made his goal clear only a few minutes after receiving his first YAIAA gold Friday:
"I'm coming back for two more."
Matt Goul is a high school sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 771-2045 or @mgoul on Twitter.