After winning the Sixth Region title last season – ending a 28-year drought – the Doss High School boys basketball team’s roster underwent a major overhaul that left most observers uncertain about the Dragons’ prospects entering the 2015-16 season.
Along with losing six seniors, four other players transferred out of the program. In a preseason poll of coaches, the Dragons were ranked sixth in the Sixth Region.
“Everybody thought Doss High School was done to go back to Rupp,” said senior Laron Hargrove, one of the few who stayed. “We just proved everybody wrong.”
Indeed, the Dragons are going back to Rupp.
GALLERY: Doss-Bullitt East
Led by seniors Kel’Shawn Knight-Goff and Kenyi Bryant – both of whom transferred into the program during the off-season – the Dragons built a big third-quarter lead and held on to beat Bullitt East 58-54 in Monday’s final of the Class Act Federal Credit Union Sixth Region Tournament at Valley.
Knight-Goff, a transfer from Christian Academy of Indiana, and Bryant, a transfer from Cincinnati, both scored 15 points. Knight-Goff had a game-high 12 rebounds, and Hargrove chipped in 10 points.
Coach Tony Williams said he never lost hope during the tumultuous off-season.
“It devastated us for about a month and a half,” he said. “We didn’t know how we were going to rebound. It was going to be tough on us this year. But good things happen when you work hard.”
No. 16 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, Doss (27-5) has won 14 of its past 15 games since the middle of January. The Dragons will face the 15th Region champion at noon on March 17 in the first round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Tyler Sharpe (14 points), Garrett Wilson (13) and Brandon Klefot (12) led No. 9 Bullitt East (27-6), which was searching for its first regional title since winning back-to-back crowns in 2011-12.
The Chargers jumped to a quick 9-3 lead on three straight 3-pointers by Wilson but quickly surrendered it.
“That’s probably the biggest regret,” Bullitt East coach Bob Blackburn said. “It would have been nice to have a few more shots go in and put us in a little better position to control the game.”
After the teams played to a 26-26 halftime score, Doss took control early in the third quarter.
Bryant hit a pair of 3-pointers and Hargrove scored four points during a 13-1 run that gave the Dragons a 39-27 lead at the 2:53 mark. Meanwhile, Bullitt East missed its first eight shots of the third quarter.
“We may not have been as patient as we wanted, but they’re the same shots we were hitting in the first and second,” Blackburn said. “No complaints there.”
The Chargers didn’t go quietly, pulling within 47-45 on Sharpe’s steal and layup with 3:08 remaining. Bullitt East had a shot to take the lead on its next possession, but Klefot’s three-point try rolled out.
Doss scored the next seven points, taking a 54-45 lead on Hargrove’s two free throws with 36.6 seconds left. Bryant’s dunk with 22 seconds left was the exclamation mark, making it 56-48.
For Hall and the others who stayed, the victory was a bit of redemption after the unsettling off-season.
“It kind of hurt because a lot of those guys are in my class and I had been playing with them for so long,” Hall said of the transfers. “We had to get over it. We fought a lot of adversity, so I guess it worked out in our favor.”
Now it’s on to Rupp, where Williams said the experience he gained last year as head coach will be an advantage in his return trip. Last year Doss beat Williamsburg 56-50 in the first round before falling to Covington Catholic 61-48 in the quarterfinals.
“We’re going to Lexington, and we’re going to make some noise,” Williams said. “I promise you that.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doss (27-5) – Franklin 5, Hargrove 10, Bryant 15, Anderson 2, Hall 9, K. Knight-Goff 15, Traynor 2.
Bullitt East (27-6) – Sharpe 14, Rakes 7, Klefot 12, Wilson 13, Farris 8.
3-point goals – Bryant 4, Hall; Sharpe 3, Rakes, Klefot, Wilson 4.
Dr. Rudy J. Ellis all-tournament team – Kel’Shawn Knight-Goff, Kenyi Bryant, Jaylon Hall (Doss); Tyler Sharpe, Jared Farris (Bullitt East); Ahmad Price (Fern Creek); Jaxon Burgess (DeSales); Curt Lewis (Valley); Keonte Smith (Moore); B.J. Robinson (Pleasure Ridge Park); Ryan Henson (North Bullitt).