DCA boys work overtime to win regional debut

Published 5:45 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

No experience, no problem.

The Danville Christian boys experienced the highs and lows of postseason basketball in the program’s first regional tournament game Thursday night, and now they’re coming back for more.

DCA outlasted Wayne County 53-48 in an overtime thriller in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament, seizing control of a gripping game in the extra period after twice letting it get away.

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None of the Warriors had ever played in a game on this stage, and though they might have gotten rattled a time or two under the bright lights at Pulaski County, they rose to the occasion and were the better team when it mattered most.

“It’s awesome, just having this opportunity, but we try not to think about it too much,” DCA guard Braden Fugate said. “We know the stakes, but we also know this is a game we’ve played our whole life so just go out there and do what we do.”

DCA (25-6) relied on defensive stops and free throws shooting – the latter of which had failed the Warriors for much of the game – to defeat Wayne (24-8) for the second time in 18 days.

The Warriors held the Cardinals to a single field goal for the final 7:03, allowing only one basket in overtime.

Meanwhile, Fugate and Titus Boyd combined to hit five of six free throws in the final minute after the team had gone 1 for 8 from the foul line to that point.

DCA coach Don Story said he believes God has a hand in what the Warriors have done to get to this point and perhaps what they did in this game, though he is aware that might sound pretentious.

“We do feel like God is a part of everything, and who knows when he’s got his hand on you?” Story said. “But I don’t say that just flippantly. We’re a Christian school, and we do believe that God has been a part of raising us up.”

At the same time, Story isn’t sure where his players found the wherewithal to pull this one out.

“How do we get that? We just kind of believe that we’re capable, but I don’t know where that belief comes from not having done it,” he said. “We did try to put them in situations with tough games this year … so some of that experience helps … but nothing really prepares you for the intensity and the importance of winning a game like this.”

Guard Titus Boyd, who scored five of his eight points in overtime for DCA, said he and his teammates repeatedly came together to steady themselves during the most difficult parts of the game.

“We try to do that after every time out or every quarter, just get together and group up and just talk over some things, make sure we’re all still together on the same page. That’s what we did and we came up with a win,” Boyd said.

After winning the clash between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the KHSAA’s RPI standings for the 12th Region, top-ranked DCA will now face Somerset in Monday’s semifinals.

Fugate, Geu Ateny, Emmanuel Dut led DCA with 13 points each, and the Warriors held their opponent below 50 points for the 25th time this season.

Two of Wayne’s three lowest point totals of the season came against DCA, which defeated the Cardinals 56-37 in the final week of the regular season.

“That’s who we are,” Fugate said.

DCA squandered an 11-0 lead when Wayne caught them in the second quarter, and they lost a seven-point lead they built in the third quarter.

They faced their largest deficit 40-36 when Fugate hit the first of three big baskets in the final 4:05 of regulation. He sank a 3-pointer that stopped the bleeding, and another 3 rattled around the rim before falling to tie the game at 42-all with 1:46 remaining.

After Wayne’s Kendall Phillips made two free throws, Fugate hit a jumper in the lane to tie the game once more with 17 seconds left. The Warriors then made it to overtime when the Cardinals’ Antajuan Dumphord missed a 3-point shot that was contested by Emmanuel Dut.

“After the game I congratulated him on making some big shots, huge shots, and he said, ‘I got you, Coach,’” Story said. “So that’s the mentality. They want to do it because they’ve got a brotherhood, they’ve got a family … and they want to do it for each other.”

In overtime, Wayne went 1 for 3 from the field with two turnovers and 2 for 4 at the foul line.

Ateny scored from 10 feet with 1:42 remaining to give DCA a 50-47 lead, and after a defensive stop the Warriors finished the game off with free throws.

When it came time for Wayne to foul in the waning seconds, Fugate caught a pass and confidently waited for the contact and the chance to go to the line.

“We kind of went through a slump at the line, and it was time to get out of it and I had confidence,” he said. “We put them in at practice, and I knew they were going in.”

DCA shot 55 percent from the field, while Wayne shot 41 percent and was 1 for 11 from 3-point range.

Boyd and other defenders held Wayne’s leading scorer, Kendall Phillips, to six points in the first meeting and six points through three quarters of the rematch, but Phillips finished with 17.

Even so, Boyd said the Warriors’ defense played well at the most critical times.

“We had confidence in our defense,” he said.

DCA now faces a rematch with Somerset (21-10), which defeated Trinity Christian 73-53 on Thursday. The Warriors defeated the Briar Jumpers twice this season, 53-39 on Jan. 12 in the finals of the 12th Region All “A” Classic and 48-45 on Feb. 23 in the regular-season finale.

Story said the good and bad experiences the Warriors got in their regional debut can only help them in their next game.

“Any time you have to fight, fight, fight and really understand the grind of a regional tournament game and you come out on top and you advance, it’s got to help you some,” he said. “But each game’s going to be a war. We knew this was going to be, and Somerset’s going to be tough.”