Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)
Last year, the season came down to one game for Wissahickon, a Wednesday afternoon matchup at Upper Moreland that was a must-win to try and make the District 1 playoffs.
That game resulted in an eight-point loss, but on Tuesday night it was the other way around with the Trojans coming out victorious on their home floor 53-45 to improve to 8-3 on the season (4-1 Suburban One). The difference-maker for the Trojans was someone who didn’t play a single minute in the season finale of last year, who’d only seen action on the junior varsity level.
Jaylon Williams (above) had 26 points as Wissahickon continued its strong 2021-22 season on Tuesday. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)
Jaylon Williams, who's playing his first season of varsity basketball, exploded for 26 points, including five 3-pointers, finishing 8-14 from the field. Williams had five points in the first quarter, but Upper Moreland switched to a 3-2 zone to try and throw the Trojans off and slow the game down to a crawl.
To the Bears’ credit, it was working — they were taking away touches from Trojan big man Josh Twersky and were getting stops before Williams decided to take over. The junior knocked down three of his five attempts from beyond the arc in the second quarter alone to give him 14 points at half.
“They said they were going to try and keep us out of the paint, and keep threes open, so I thought we could shoot them out of the zone, or else we’re not going to win this game,” Williams said.
After starting as the JV point guard last year, Williams has made his transition to being a shooting guard, sharing the back court with fellow junior Earl Stout. Williams has looked to be more aggressive scoring the ball, rather than focusing on playmaking and setting up others, which was his job on JV last year
“I’ve just been shooting more shots,” Williams said. “It feels good to know I could shoot the ball and them not to care and have my back”
Williams started the year coming off the bench, but after a starting spot was made available he seized the opportunity and hasn’t looked back. Williams has always had the ability to play both guard positions, but he’s started to make the shooting guard spot his own, not subbing out a single time during the game.
The junior has always had it in him, but the challenge has been consistency and staying aggressive.
“We always knew Jaylon had it in him, but it was just a matter of when he’s ready to turn that switch, because it's there,” Wissahickon head coach Kyle Wilson said.
“We’ve been telling him that he’s playing good and that he needs to stay aggressive,” Wilson added. “He has a very smooth, easy game and sometimes he recognizes he’s just floating out there and falls out of rhythm.”
There was no doubt about Williams being locked in on Tuesday, scoring nearly half of his team's points against a scrappy Upper Moreland team.
The Golden Bears (6-3, 2-3) trailed for most of the game, before making a run in the third quarter thanks to a stellar one-two punch of point guard Byron Hopkins and big man Matt Tiernan. Hopkins finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Tiernan added 12 with 8 boards.
Tiernan’s physical play down low was key and Hopkins hit a three to give Upper Moreland a 40-39 lead at the start of the fourth. The Trojans proceeded to go on a 7-0 run, which allowed Wiss to outscore their opponent 13-5 in the final six minutes.
The Trojans were able to contain Tiernan by putting sophomore Dom Vacchiano on him and having Twersky play help defense on him due to foul trouble.
“It was a different look than he was expecting because before we were guarding him one on one with just Twerksy,” Wilson said. “We had Twersky coming over to help and he had to find whoever Twersky’s man was, and we kept switching so he could never figure out where the open man was.”
With the Trojans getting stops on one end, it was Williams who came up with the goods once again when his team needed him most. After a bit of a quiet third quarter, Williams started the fourth by getting fouled on a 3-pointer, and he got into the passing lane for a couple steals which led to and-ones on the other end for him. He scored nine in the final quarter to help his team close out the game for their third straight win.
Vacchiano also had a good fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 15 points in the final eight minutes. The sophomore knocked down a corner 3-pointer that gave the Trojans the lead for good and hit all six of his free throw attempts late in the game to seal the game for Wissahickon.
The Trojans are still a relatively young team with only three seniors on their roster, but they’re beginning to build some momentum as they head into a tough middle portion of the season. With games against highly ranked District 1 opponents like Cheltenham, Bensalem and Upper Dublin, Wissahickon is going to be tested the next couple of weeks.
“We need to continue to be mentally focused because I think we had a couple lapses out there,” Wilson said. “We also recognize that we execute so well against teams that play man to man and we haven’t seen a lot of 3-2 zones this year.”
Wissahickon: 9 | 13 | 12 | 19 || 53
Upper Moreland: 5 | 12 | 16 | 12 || 45
Wissahickon: Williams 26, Vacchiano 15, Wilson 5, Stout 4, Twersky 3
Upper Moreland: Hopkins 15, Tiernan 12, Dallahan 6, Campbell 6, Meakim 3, Garofalo 3