With the championship hanging in the balance, Wesley Williams-Burse found himself at the rim with a chance to deliver a rare milestone for the Enochs High boys basketball program.
The 6-foot-4 senior raced from a weakside position, rose to meet the potential-game-winning shot at its apex, slapping it away to preserve the Eagles' 56-55 victory over Modesto Metro Conference rival Gregori on Dec. 30.
The block sealed the Livermore Cowboy Holiday Tournament title, the program's first trophy since 2009.
"He willed us to that championship," Enochs coach Randy Rubio said. "It was about him deciding to play. He gets all the credit. Wes hasn't always wanted to lead, but he's stepped into that role nicely this year.
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"That block to save a one-point win, it just exemplifies him and the type of season he's having. It was huge for the program. For us to win there, like that, showed a lot of growth. For Wes, it proved the sky is the limit."
Williams-Burse is off to another fast start. He's averaging 23.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and two assists for the upstart Eagles, who have won nine games, surpassing their season total from a year ago. Enochs was thwarted by Beyer (2-1, 9-7) on Wednesday evening, 79-62, but Williams-Burse kept the game interesting with a season-high 34 points.
Faced with a pressing defense designed to create chaos, Williams-Burse was the steady hand, connecting on 13 field goals, including five from beyond the 3-point line. Rubio said his young star worked tirelessly in the offseason to develop his outside shot, realizing that MMC coaches were likely going to crowd the paint.
"It just shows he's not one-dimensional," Rubio said. "It makes him way more difficult to guard. He's not just a threat to drive around you. Now he's a threat to pull up and shoot. If you're going to give up something, you're going to give up the shot. Only now, he's making you pay for that."
Williams-Burse has toiled in obscurity, a dynamic all-around talent playing for a program stuck in neutral.
Enochs has just four winning seasons since fielding its first varsity team in 2007-08 and hasn't qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason since 2014-15, Williams-Burse's freshman year.
Williams-Burse was an all-MMC first-team selection last season, despite the Eagles' futility. He averaged 20.2 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots on a team that won just six games. He was third in the Stanislaus District in double-doubles with 14, trailing only Duquesne University freshman and former Manteca High star Tydus Verhoeven (21) and Golden Valley's Cyrus Allen (18).
Williams-Burse balanced the frustration with patience and trust -- trust in his coaches, like Rubio, and trust in the process.
"I feel like it made me a better," Williams-Burse said "It's given me patience. Nothing is going to happen right away. Sometimes, you have to take the long route."
Enochs' victory over Gregori (3-0, 12-2) at the Livermore Cowboy Holiday Tournament indicates the Eagles may be nearing their destination. The Eagles are 1-2 in conference play, but their confidence is boosted by that one night in Livermore.
"It meant a lot to us," said Williams-Burse, the tournament MVP. "We put in the work to get to that point. It's been up and down for Enochs basketball, but it showed where we want to be and where we're heading."
The change, he said, happened in the offseason.
"I feel like we all bought into the program," Williams-Burse said. "Coach really put an emphasis on me taking a leadership role because it was my senior year. I had to get guys to buy into what we wanted to do this year."
The hardest sell: Himself.
Williams-Burse's rise as a vocal and emotional leader has turned Enochs (1-2, 9-7) into a contender in the MMC, where state-ranked Modesto Christian (3-0, 10-2) is prohibited from winning the league title.
The Eagles travel to Downey (5-11) Friday. The Knights are winless in conference play.
"When we came to practice today, it was, 'What's the morale going to be like?' Wes came in with a positive attitude and the team fed off of it," Rubio said. "He's the heart and soul of this team, and he's taken his game to another level. Before it was just basketball. Now, he's learning to be a leader on and off the floor."