TAMPA — In years past, Wiregrass Ranch center Eric Williams would have disappeared in Friday's game against Brandon in the SEBA Tournament at Berkeley Prep.
But an offseason that included traveling with the AAU team sponsored by St. Petersburg-native and current Philadelphia 76er Marreese Speights has transformed the 6-foot-9 big man.
Williams overcame foul trouble in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of his game-high 23 to rally the Bulls to a 43-40 victory.
"He's learned how to keep his head in the game and developed the knack to take over games," Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeremy Calzone said. "He played with elite competition over the summer and he figured out what it means to dominate."
After the Eagles outscored the Bulls 18-6 in the third quarter, Williams had two monster dunks during an 11-2 run to start the fourth to help Wiregrass (2-0) reclaim the lead. The Eagles (0-1) fought back and tied the game on a 3-pointer by Xavier Bradley, but a runner in the lane by the Bulls' Chris Emery with a minute remaining and a free throw by Emery soon after sealed the game.
Williams came within one rebound and one blocked shot of a triple double. Travis Green came off the bench to score 14 off to pace the Eagles.
In Ridgewood's game against Sickles, it seemed as if the Rams had stuffed themselves with too much turkey. By the time Charles Vazquez nailed a 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes left in the first quarter, the Gryphons had already scored 22 points. Sickles ended the quarter with a 28-8 lead and ended up with a convincing 78-48 win.
"We definitely got taken to the woodshed tonight," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "But it was also a case early on where everything they did went right and most of what we did went wrong."
Charles Jones was the lone bright spot for Ridgewood, scoring 25 to match Sickles' Rashawn Rembert, who had 20 points in the first half to help the Gryphons stake the early lead.
In the other two games, Damian Dixon had 25 points and Xavier Owens scored 21 to lead Wharton to a 65-56 overtime victory over Orlando Evans. Berkeley Prep and King combined to shoot 66 free throws in an ugly 54-47 Buccaneer win. Josh Williams led Berkeley with 14 points.