Here we are, folks — the end of the 2015-16 High School Basketball season. A bittersweet feeling for enthusiasts like myself, however, my predictions proved to be true and for that, I left Rupp Arena a little prouder this trip, so you’ll have to excuse me if this article is less formal than my usual pieces. I was raised in the 15th Region, a place that has only crowned a State Champion 4 times out of the 99 years of KHSAA history, so year in and year out, I choose a team to love and cheer for in this great tournament.
This year, I chose Paul Laurence Dunbar. As you know, I’ve written several articles for Cameron Mills Radio this post season. My first one, titled Dunbar’s Dog Fight, outlined all the things about Dunbar that made me realize early on that they were capable of winning the whole darn thing – and they did it with gusto.
“This team is a special group that will be unforgettable…” said Scott Chalk, the head coach at PLD.
Any coach would be lying if they told you that a State Title wasn’t on their brains each basketball season. Some can only dream about it, but for some, the dream is highly achievable. Scott Chalk was the latter scenario. “I have coached for 22 years in the 11th Region and this is what I have been working for all that time,” said Coach Chalk after his victory over Louisville Doss this afternoon.
Dunbar has dug deep all tournament – each of their wins, until the Championship, was the result of a come-from-behind victory – one deficit being as large as 16 points. The Bulldogs had smooth sailing for the championship, as Doss didn’t get any closer than 9 points to them from beginning to end. PLD had an extraordinary 1st Quarter, keeping Doss scoreless for several minutes, and winning the quarter 17-7. They outscored Doss in every quarter but the 3rd, where Doss seemed to show signs of life, but Dunbar ultimately put them to bed, winning the game 61-52.
Taveion Hollingsworth, Junior guard, played on another level; He scored 20 points and pulled down 8 rebounds. He was awarded the tournament MVP. Tay tells me he plays for his grandmother, Mary Lou, who was killed when he was only 9 years old. He added that he was judged a lot in his youth; he had people telling him he wasn’t good enough, so every summer he spent time in the gym getting better. He didn’t have the words to describe what it meant to win – “it means more than anything,” he said.
Darius Williams, Senior Forward and 11th Region player of the year, proudly carried his share of the load. Williams dropped 15 points and had 4 crucial rebounds. When asked what drove him to play so hard, he said, “I put the work in for the city of Lexington,” because he wanted to see that trophy back in Fayette County.
Dontell Brown, Junior big man and Dunbar’s most improved (and his rebounding) was the key to this win. From the beginning of the year, Dontell has made leaps and bounds into his role and it showed. He dropped a quiet 11 points and pulled down 8 rebounds – but it was his presence in the paint and smart defense that made all the difference — They simply did not have an answer for the big guy.
Justin Kelley scored fewer points than he has all tournament, however, his ability to shut down a player defensively is unmatched, and tonight it showed. He chipped in 2 points and pulled down 4 rebounds, and had the fewest turnovers of the starting squad. Justin had the most to say about the victory. “It means so much, it’s what we’ve been striving for the past 2 years. Sub 500 team last year to a team that wins state, it’s crazy… it was great having all of Lexington behind you and knowing that you’re representing everybody in town.”
This group of kids and coaches have worked and absolutely earned every single win; They stacked the toughest schedule they could this season. Coach Chalk is a mastermind of X’s and O’s, tough love, and hard work; Assistant Coach Marquis Estill, former Kentucky Wildcat, turned Dontell Brown from a linebacker to a true post player — their missing puzzle piece; and then there’s Assistant Coach Jonathan Moore, who I am convinced is the heart and soul of this entire group. Moore says, “They have had a far longer lasting impact on my life than I ever could theirs… to watch them succeed and fulfill a dream is unreal. It’s like being a proud father of 14, I love these kids.”
It’s my belief that heart and love for the game of basketball won this game for Dunbar. They had their eyes on the prize from day one, not allowing themselves to be counted out throughout the tournament. During the Championship game, Dunbar stepped on that court, demanding the win be theirs. The Bulldogs have a great thing going there on Man O’ War, with some of the most impressive chemistry I’ve seen in a coaching staff. I look for them to be a name we see for years to come.
This will be my closing article for high school basketball season here at Cameron Mills Radio. I hope you’ll tune in for some of the historical pieces I will be adding here and there. It has been a joy and I appreciate all of those people who joined or helped along the way. Special thanks go to Cameron Mills for trusting me with this project, Coach Moore for being my inside track on Dunbar, J.R. VanHoose just for putting up with me, and Herald Leader’s Josh Moore, for being a constant resource to bounce ideas and information off of. I appreciate all of you so much.
See you guys soon.
@BluegrassBball on Twitter