The belief all along for this year's Central Catholic basketball team was that it would go just as far as its young guards would carry it.
On Friday night, that backcourt announced to the Western Athletic Conference they intend to carry the Raiders all the way to the title.
With sophomore Ky Wilson's 15 points leading the way and senior wing Liam Smith adding 14, Central Catholic pulled away to a 63-57 victory over Hilmar in a battle for first place.
Junior point guard Anthony Alamo added eight points as the Raiders continued their stunning maturity process at the guard position. Everyone knew how strong Central would be inside this season with 6-foot, 6-inch Dan Hulst and 6-5 Dusty Killian controlling the paint, but the rest was a question mark.
But the Raiders never would have made it to this point -- a 17-4 overall record and an 8-1 WAC mark -- without the swift development of their guards.
"It's a confidence thing, and it's easier to build that confidence once you've had success in pressure games," said Mike Wilson, Central's coach and Ky's father. "That's what I'm seeing."
Never was that confidence more evident that with 1:38 remaining in the game. Central led 57-51 at that point, and had just broken Hilmar's backcourt pressure, getting the ball to Wilson in the frontcourt.
While common wisdom called for him to pull the ball out and work some clock before the Yellowjackets could foul, Wilson spotted a nice wide patch of open floor on the wing. He took one dribble and drilled a 3-pointer -- his third of the game -- to give the Raiders their biggest lead.
"I just saw an opening and remembered I hadn't hit a 3-pointer yet in the second half, so I just shot it and got lucky on that one," Wilson said.
"We've worked hard since the beginning of the year on getting better, and improving our shots, and just relaxing out there. We relaxed well in the last few games here and because our shots have been falling we've been able to help out."
Hilmar (15-5, 7-2) ran with the same script it used to win the first league meeting with Central, getting both Hulst and Killian into foul trouble. But this time, all that did was force the Raiders into a tight zone to protect the inside, while at the same time daring Hilmar to hit outside shots.
The Yellowjackets' balanced attack, with guard Noel Zaldana scoring 14 points, Quinton McCown 13 and Josh Tung 11, accepted the challenge and took a 44-43 lead into the fourth quarter, but then the shots stopped falling.
"We weren't executing like we did in the first three quarters," said Hilmar coach Danny Freitas. "We got them the first time when we got both big men in foul trouble, but this time it just didn't work out."
Killian scored four points as Central opened the fourth quarter on a 10-3 run, and Hilmar never regained an offensive rhythm.
"We saw a couple shots that were off and thought it might be because they were a little tired from working so hard," Mike Wilson said. "So we backed off and it worked."