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Travis York is 48-17 in two seasons with the Bulldogs. He was head coach at Miami-Hamilton in Ohio before coming to Lawrence County, where he graduated in 1999.
1 Robert Dalton 6-2 Sr. 17.7 ppg
2 Austin Chaffin 5-11 Sr. 15.2 ppg
3 Grant Kiser 6-3 Sr. 9.8 ppg
10 Timmy Dalton 6-3 Jr. 18.7 ppg
23 Brandon Richardson 6-2 Sr. 13.6 ppg
How they got here
The Bulldogs ended Johnson Central’s four-year reign atop the region with a 75-64 effort in the finals. All five Lawrence County starters are members of the 1,000-point club and constitute five of the eight top scorers in school history. Robert Dalton became the school’s first 2,000-point scorer in the 15th Region semifinals against Magoffin County, and if Lawrence County makes a deep run Timmy Dalton and Austin Chaffin could join him in that recently-established hall. “Any given night, any one of them can score 30,” York said. “We spread the floor and hope to find a mismatch and normally we can find it with one of them.”
Lawrence County is ranked 11th of the 16 teams in the field. That’s nothing new; the Bulldogs have been undervalued all year, York said. “Get to state where people will watch ya and prove yourself,” he’s told his team all year. “And prove it to yourself even. Show you are better than what people think, or maybe they were right. It’s your opportunity to show out on that stage.”
The very first
This edition of the Bulldogs isn’t just rewriting the school record books; it’s the first basketball team, boys’ or girls’, to ever reach the Sweet Sixteen in the history of Lawrence County. “We’re in pretty good spirits,” York said with a laugh. The Bulldogs toured all the county schools last Wednesday to show off the region trophy and help get young fans fired up. Community support in the area has been “more than you could even believe.”
Player to watch
Timmy Dalton, the only non-season starter, averages a team-best 18.7 points to go with six rebounds a game. The younger of the Dalton brothers figures to be among the mountains’ Mr. Basketball candidates in the 2016-17 season. “He should be making some untouchable records next year,” York said.
This is Lawrence County’s first ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, nearly 40 years after the school opened in September 1977.
Last season, Tony Williams took over a Dragons program that hadn’t reached the Sweet Sixteen since 1987 and guided it to Rupp Arena. Williams, who coached St. Francis to its only non-losing season before coming to Doss, is 67-25 over his career.
2 Stephon Franklin 6-0 So. 5.8 ppg
3 Laron Hargrove 6-3 Sr. 6.3 ppg
5 Kenyi Bryant 6-4 Sr. 15.5 ppg
11 Jaylon Hall 6-5 Jr. 10.3 ppg
13 Kelshawn Knight-Goff 6-5 Sr. 13.1 ppg
How they got here
Doss defeated Bullitt East 58-54 in the regional finals, their third straight win over the Chargers. It avenged a double-digit loss to Fern Creek early in the season with a 13-point victory over the Tigers in the 6th Region semis. The Dragons run the triangle offense, enabling Williams to be more flexible with his rotation as needed. He’s shown players film of the multiple Phil Jackson teams that won titles in the NBA in part due to the triangle. “We watch it, and then we watch the end of the video when the confetti comes down,” Williams said. “They see themselves in the video. The same thing that we do is the same thing that they did to win it.”
Same team, new faces
Four of last season’s starters for Doss, including three seniors, are no longer around. Several sophomores and juniors also transferred out of the school. The toughest part of his second year was getting guys to buy into the possibility of making a return trip and combat an impression that something might be wrong with the program. “They really, really like each and they will give up a small piece of themselves for the greater good of the team,” Williams said of those who stuck it out.
Player to watch
The only returning player from last year’s starting five is junior Jaylon Hall, who averages 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.But Williams said the triangle will dictate who gets the ball should a season-saving shot need to be taken. “I got five guys that I would trust to take the shot,” Williams said. “ … The ball’s gonna move and it’s gonna get in the right spot based on the spacing in our offense.”
Doss has been to the show six times in total, most recently last year. The Dragons reached the quarterfinals in 2015. They made it to the 1980 finals in their first ever appearance but lost to Owensboro, 57-56.