DCA boys stunned by triple-overtime loss to Somerset

Published 4:25 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Don Story knew there was nothing he could say that would help.

The Danville Christian coach spent a long time in the locker room with his players following a devastating defeat Monday night in the boys 12th Region Tournament.

Yet he knew his words would offer no consolation to a room full of heartbroken teenagers whose dream season had just come crashing down with a stunning triple-overtime loss.

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“There’s not anything, really, you can say,” Story said. “Tell ’em you love ’em, tell ’em you appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made for our program and how they’ve been a part of bringing it to this level. That’s about it.”

Indred Whitaker knocked down a 3-point shot with six seconds left in the third overtime to give Somerset a 60-57 semifinal victory at Pulaski County.

Whitaker’s shot brought a sudden end to a wild ride in which both teams were on the verge of victory more than once over the final four periods.

And it denied DCA (25-7), the top-ranked team in the 12th Region for most of the season, a chance to advance to the regional title game for the first time and to cap a breakout season for the program with a trip to the Boys Sweet 16.

The Warriors paid a price for failing to close out a game they led by nine points in the final minute.

Missed free throws left the door open for Somerset (22-10), as DCA was just 5 for 14 at the foul line in the fourth quarter.

There were other plays here and there that hurt the Warriors as well, but their free throw shooting jumped off the stat sheet.

“To win championships you’ve got to make your free throws, you’ve got to make your layups, you’ve got to get 50-50 balls, you’ve got to rebound, and we struggled there for a stretch in the last four minutes of the game,” Story said. “We’d done a great job up until that moment, and we let them get back in it.”

Then there was the matter of Somerset’s long-range shooting. The Briar Jumpers went all in on 3-point shooting, taking 46 of their 64 shots from behind the line.

They went 14 for 46 overall from 3-point range and were 2 for 11 in the fourth quarter, but they were 4 for 7 in the overtime periods, with Whitaker hitting all four shots to finish with a game-high 25 points.

Whitaker and Aedyn Absher combined for 11 3s, and they and Ben Godby combined for 52 points.

“That’s their game, and they do a really good job with it,” Story said. “And we got lost a few times. … It’s hard to stay matched up all the time when they’ve got five (shooters). We did a really good job the first half with Whitaker and Godby and Absher.”

Whitaker got open on the right side for his winning shot, which scooted across the rim, kicked up and bounced off the rim twice before falling through.

DCA had 4.7 seconds to answer, and Braden Fugate launched a shot from well behind the center line that bounced off the back of the rim, leaving Story looking for a way to console his players.

“You don’t really go over the game,” he said. “You do maybe later, how we made some mistakes and did this or that. You just try to encourage them to look at the big picture, but at the time nothing really matters.

“It’s hardest for the seniors because they’re not going to be with us,” he said. “You kind of talk about the future, but they’re going on to college. I don’t know, man. It’s hard.”

DCA reached new heights this season, cracking the top 20 in some statewide rankings and winning district and regional tournaments games for the first time.

“I’m proud that we competed at a high level,” Story said. “I’m just proud of the men they are. We try to glorify God whether we win or lose. It’s a little hard when you lose for a bit … but what I’m most proud of is how much character they have and the young men they’re going to be.”

Geu Ateny scored 15 points to lead DCA. Lual Ayiei added 14 points, Titus Boyd had 11 and Emmanuel Dut had 10.

The Warriors shut out the Jumpers for a span of 3:45 in the fourth quarter while they built their largest lead at 47-38 with a 7-0 run in which they got baskets from Ateny and Dut but missed five of eight free throws.

Whitaker hit three free throws for Somerset with 43 seconds left to trim the margin to six, and the Jumpers got a steal and layup from Absher to cut it to four at :34.

Absher hit a 3 with 16 seconds left to make it 48-46, and after DCA missed two more free throws, Somerset freshman Josh Lewis hit two of three with 1.5 seconds left to force overtime.

The lead changed hands five times in the fifth period, with Ateny scoring eight points for the Warriors and Ayiei tying the game at 57-all on two free throws with 52 seconds left before Somerset held for and missed the final shot.

There was only one shot attempted in the second overtime, as the Jumpers got the ball first and maintained possession before missing a layup with one second left.

The third OT was playing out the same way until DCA’s Dut got a steal with 2:28 to play. The Warriors held the ball for more than a minute before a missed 3 at 1:15 allowed Somerset to hold the ball for Whitaker’s winner.

“We told them before the game (to) play to win the game,” Story said. “Yeah, it goes through your mind (to hold the ball), but we kind of wanted to keep playing. We said in the timeout, ‘Let’s get the lead, get a stop and then we’re in a good position, but we didn’t get the lead.”

Story and Somerset coach Ryan Young, who are both from Lincoln County and who know each other well, shared a hug and a brief conversation after the final buzzer.

DCA shot 46 percent from the field, while Somerset shot 32 percent but benefitted from 14 offensive rebounds, many of them long rebounds off missed 3-point attempts.

The defeat was a bitter pill for the Warriors, but Story said it will become another building block for the championship program they want to become.

“We’ll lick our wounds and this will be over with,” he said. “It will always be there in the back of our minds, but as devastated as they were, kids rebound pretty quick and we’ll be looking forward to next year before long.

“We’ll use this experience, I hope, to get us further and further as we continue to grow.”


All-Tournament Team

Aedyn Absher, Somerset; Zak Anderson, Pulaski County; Geu Ateny, Danville Christian; Will Blankenship, Pulaski County; Avery Bodner, Boyle County; Gavin Cook, Pulaski County; Emmanuel Dut, Danville Christian; Trevor Ellis, Mercer County; Carson Fraley, Pulaski County; Ben Godby, Somerset; Connor Hudson, Southwestern; John Lincoln Perry, Mercer County; Kendall Phillips, Wayne County; Bryce Thompson, Trinity Christian; Indred Whitaker, Somerset