When Henry Clay trailed Moore 59-40 late in the third quarter in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic Wednesday night, Blue Devils Coach Daniel Brown didn't change his strategy or his lineup.
Instead, he challenged his players' heart and desire.
"We looked up at the scoreboard and we were down 19, and I told them they were representing Henry Clay's tradition and pride, and they needed to play like that meant something to them."
The message was received.
The young Devils, playing their most inspired basketball of the season, rallied with a 26-5 run to take the lead, and they went on to beat Moore 77-73 in the tournament quarterfinals.
Henry Clay sophomores Jordan Green, Christen Cunningham, Trey Grundy and Teddy Ware led the way.
The 6-foot-4 Green, playing the best overall game of his career, had 26 points, 10 rebounds and defended Moore star MeKale McKay.
"Jordan Green played like an all-stater tonight," Brown said. "He showed his potential on both ends of the court."
Cunningham, a 5-11 point guard, had 15 points. Ware, a long-range sharpshooter, had 13 points, including three three-pointers. Grundy, a 6-6 wing player, had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Moore, No. 7 in the state in the pre-season, played up to its lofty ranking through most of the first three quarters.
McKay, a 6-6 senior who has committed to go to Texas-El Paso, and William Bryant, a broad-shouldered 6-4 senior, each had 19 points and combined for 13 rebounds.
No. 12 Henry Clay trailed 34-24 at halftime, and it dug itself an even deeper hole in the third quarter.
Brown said the Devils' comeback began when they started attacking the rim instead of settling for jump shots. "Being aggressive on offense led to being aggressive on defense."
After shooting 35 percent in the first half, Henry Clay shot 70 percent in the second.
Green said it was all about teamwork.
"Instead of going one-on-one and doing our own thing, we came together and that's what started the big run," he said.
Moore Coach Shedrick Jones said his team had a meltdown by allowing Henry Clay to hit 16 of 23 shots in the second half.
"A total lack of defense," he said.
Whether Henry Clay's stunning comeback was a defining moment for a young team remains to be seen. The Devils face another challenge when they take on No. 10 Lexington Catholic in Thursday's semifinals.
"I think we grew up tonight," Brown said. "It's a good win, but we need to keep building on it and become a region contender."
"We can't let this just be one win," he said. "We've gotta come out and play like this from the start every night."