The Red Devils of Douglass High School ran into a bigger and more agile team than they had played all season in the Class A championship game. After Douglass made its expected push to get past Loretto High School, they found the Mustangs just would not fold.
The home team on the scoreboard, Douglass fell 74-67 to Loretto, which clearly had most of the crowd behind it. Breaking the Red Devils’ press and getting easy baskets, Loretto led most of the game. And when Douglass pulled within a single point in the final period, the Mustangs stemmed the Red Devils’ charge.
“I thought we had them where we wanted them, but they stay poised,” Douglass head coach Gregory Johnson said. “They stuck with it. I thought we were about to make that Douglass turn, but it did not happen.”
A bit surprised that Loretto was able to get up and down the floor as it did, Johnson that wasn’t the determining factor.
“Sixty-two rebounds to twenty-nine rebounds, you are not going to win many games if you are not able to rebound the basketball,” he said. “They got second-chance shots after second-chance shots. That is what did it for us. I thought we played pretty good defense, but we gave up too many second-chance points.”
Douglass got off to a good start, leading 9-8 with 2:24 left in the first quarter. The Mustangs rallied to score seven points and took a 15-9 lead into the second period. By halftime, Loretto was up 32-22.
The Red Devils closed to within five points (41-36) with 3:39 left in the period 41-36. The Mustangs did not blink, and quickly pushed the lead back to 10 points (47-37) at the quarter’s 1:59 mark. The Red Devils trailed 49-42 going into the final period.
Douglass scored the first six points of the fourth period, trimming the deficit to 49-48 thanks to three-pointers by Devyn Payne and Antavious Bufford. That would be the closest the Red Devils would get. Normally a good shooting team, Douglass could not get enough of its shots to fall.
Despite being seriously outrebounded, the Red Devils did force 27 turners but just could not convert them into enough points to offset the rebounding deficit.
Douglass’ Jordan Smith, who was named to the all-tournament team along with teammates Martico Washington and Buford, said, “They are one of the best teams we have played all year. That is why they are here. We could have done better on our part.”
Payne led the Red Devils with 17 points. Buford and Washington each added 15 . Rayan Weathers’ 25 points paced Loretto, with Jacob Hallmark and Will McBee scoring 15 points each.
Asked if the Red Devils were rushing their shots near the end of the game, Williams said, “We can’t question the way we played because that is the way we have played all year long. … My guys did what we do. Loretto played and they beat us on the boards. … We have been on our guys all year about hitting the boards.”
At the end of it’s 32-2 season, Williams said, “At this moment we are a little down, but you can’t argue with 32-2. These guys have done an outstanding job all year long. I am very proud of what they have accomplished. What I am told is we made history in Memphis. I think the community is proud of us. The school is proud of us. I can’t ask for anything more. We didn’t get the gold ball, but we got the silver ball and we are proud and happy.”