Class 3A boys: Douglass wins seventh state championship in eight years
While Douglass celebrated its seventh state championship in eight years on the State Fair Arena floor Saturday, senior guard Jesse Wilson made sure teammate Day'Quann Ervin was part of the celebration.
Ervin was at home, sidelined by a heart condition that may end his career, so Wilson carried Ervin's No. 4 jersey to the trophy presentation.
“We wanted to finish out the season for him,” said Douglass' Coryon Mason, who scored a game-high 21 points as the Trojans won the Class 3A boys state championship with a 62-56 victory over conference rival Star-Spencer.
Douglass players spoke with Ervin, who almost collapsed at practice two weeks ago, over a speaker phone after the Trojans won their record 21st straight state tournament game.
“That was brotherhood there,” Douglass coach Kendal Cudjoe said of his players carrying the No. 4 jersey onto the floor. “That was really special.”
Saturday's victory was Douglass first 3A title and 10th overall. The Trojans' other championships were all in Class 4A.
The second-ranked Trojans won the game by outscoring the Bobcats 14-7 in the final 4 ½ minutes. Mason's 3-point play gave Douglass a 51-49 lead that started the run, then another 3-point play by the senior guard with 1:29 left proved to be the dagger, putting Douglass on top 58-52.
“Tonight was just like a conference game,” Kendal Cudjoe said. “We split (with Star-Spencer) during the regular season. Both games were real close. These kids, they know each other, they've grown up together. We knew exactly what kind of game it was going to be.”
Naquann Hopkins had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Trojans. Star-Spencer senior Marquethz Lee scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Bobcats.
Mason said it was the defense down the stretch by Douglass that was the difference in the game.
“It all starts on defense,” Mason said. “Coach tells us we have to play defense, that defense wins games, defense wins championships.”
His coach agreed.
“Our guys really locked in defensively and got stops and got some turnovers and some easy baskets out of it,” Kendal Cudjoe said. “And we made free throws down the stretch.”
And the winning tradition of Douglass also helps, he said. Douglass may want to consider changing its team colors from orange to gold after hoisting yet another gold ball.
“I think it helps a lot,” Kendal Cudjoe said of Douglass' winning ways. “Those guys grew up in middle school and watched the Stevie Clarks, the Deondre Clarks and the Patrick McKaufmans before them. It just rubs off on them.”
Douglass knocked off No. 1 Centennial in the semifinal on Friday. No. 6 Star-Spencer (21-7) was seeking its ninth state championship but first since 2009.
“Defensively, we didn't execute for most of the game,” Bobcats coach Lance Cudjoe said. “We gave them second shots. Offensively, down the stretch, we had point blank shots and didn't execute that.
“It's very disappointing because at Star-Spencer we play for championships, but we will get back out there and do the very best job we can in the future. I promise you that.”