LEXINGTON, Ky. – Tony Williams joked that he’s never been a worthwhile artist, but he drew two pictures on the whiteboard in the locker room at Rupp Arena before Saturday’s big game.
“I drew my best state championship trophy and my best state runner-up trophy, and I told those guys, ‘If we can find a way to pull it out tonight, you’ve guaranteed yourself at least one of those,’” the Doss High School boys basketball coach said. “On Sunday at 2 p.m. … it will be decided which one of those we get.”
The Dragons wrapped up a spot in Sunday’s final with composed play down the stretch Saturday in a 70-63 victory over South Laurel in the semifinals of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 in front of 10,917 fans.
GALLERY: Doss-South Laurel
Jaylon Hall hit 13 of 16 free throws and scored 17 points to lead Doss (30-5), No. 14 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings. Stephon Franklin added 16 points and Kel’Shawn Knight-Goff pitched in 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Doss will face No. 1 Paul Dunbar (32-6) in Sunday’s 2 p.m. championship. It will be the Dragons’ second appearance in a state final, having lost to Owensboro in 1980.
It will be the first Louisville-Lexington Boys Sweet 16 final since Lafayette beat Male in 2001.
“I’m sure we’ll be playing the underdog role,” Williams said. “There’s not a better role for us to play with our backs against the wall and not as many people believing in us as the other team. That’s just the way we like it.”
Jared Grubb scored 22 points to lead No. 13 South Laurel (28-6), which led 58-53 with 3:49 remaining but couldn’t hold on.
“We just came up short,” Cardinals coach Jeff Davis said. “You have to tip your hat to Louisville Doss. They were the better team tonight.”
The fourth quarter featured five lead changes and three ties, the last coming when Grubb hit a pair of free throws to make it 63-63 with 1:03 remaining.
Knight-Goff scored to give Doss a 65-63 lead with 47 seconds left, and Grubb was short on a 3-point try with 30 seconds left.
“We were trying to get a ball screen or get into the lane,” Davis said. “Jared was doing such a good job in the second half of getting in there, and (Doss) did a good job of taking that away.
“We can second-guess all day long, and I probably should have called a timeout and drew something up. But I didn’t want (Doss) to have a chance to set up something. I’ve trusted these guys all year long to make plays, and they’ve done it.”
With 24 seconds left, Hall made a free throw for a 66-63 lead, missed the second and got his own rebound. Hall sank four more free throws in the final 19.2 seconds for the final margin.
“I really dogged them out at halftime,” said Williams, whose team trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half and was down 35-29 at the break. “But they came out after halftime with some energy and fight in them. They started really executing the defensive plays we had set up.”
Doss and Paul Dunbar did not meet during the regular season but did face each other during a preseason scrimmage in November. Williams said he remembers the scrimmage ending in a tie.
“They’re a group of fighters, like us,” Williams said of Paul Dunbar. “I think they probably want it just as bad as we want it, that gold trophy. … Funny how things happen. You go from that scrimmage there, not knowing we’d play each other for the state title. Had no clue.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOUTH LAUREL 16 19 12 16 – 63
DOSS 9 20 17 24 – 70
South Laurel (28-7) – Griffith 11, Taylor 12, Anders 8, Grubb 22, Ramey 6, Phelps 2, Miller 2.
Doss (30-5) – Hargrove 10, Hall 17, K. Knight-Goff 15, Franklin 16, Bryant 9, Anderson 3.
3-point goals – Griffith, Grubb 2, Ramey; Franklin, Bryant 3, Anderson.