Doss scored 10 of the game’s final 12 points to upend Lawrence County, 66-57, in the first round of the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament Thursday afternoon in Rupp Arena.
Jaylon Hall scored 23 points, connecting on 13 of 15 free-throw attempts, to lead the Dragons to their second straight quarterfinals appearance. He made nine of his charity shots in the final quarter, and six straight in the last minute and a half.
When “the big moment” comes calling, Doss Coach Tony Williams knows Hall won’t be afraid to go to the line and knock shots down. Hall, an honor student, was a freshman at St. Francis, where Williams started his coaching career, and has been a key figure in back-to-back state-tournament trips for the Dragons. He was the only returning starter from last year’s squad that overcame Williamsburg in overtime before falling to Covington Catholic in the quarterfinals.
“When you wanna put the ball into someone’s hands at the end of a game, you want it in a player’s hands who you trust and who you know will knock down free throws,” Williams said.
Williams added slyly, “And besides, if he misses free throws and we don’t win the game, when we get home I will put him on punishment.”
Doss is playing with “a sense of confidence” despite rolling out almost an entirely new starting unit, Williams said. It showed in the Dragons’ effort on the boards; they outrebounded Lawrence County 39-24, including a 25-8 advantage in the first half.
Lawrence County Coach Travis York knew that Doss’s length and athleticism would be hard to overcome around the rim, especially on the offensive glass. He thought the Bulldogs put together their best defensive half of the year in the first 16 minutes — they held Doss to 23 points on 33.3 percent shooting — but couldn’t capitalize themselves. Lawrence County had 19 points on a 22.7-percent mark heading into the locker room
The Bulldogs kept things tight in the second half. They took a 46-45 lead early in the fourth quarter before Doss reeled off nine straight points. Lawrence climbed back to within two points — 57-55 — on a Timmy Dalton layup in transition with 1:40 remaining. That sort of volatility has been typical for the Bulldogs this season, York said. Dalton had team highs of 16 points and nine rebounds.
Seconds after Dalton’s layup, Lawrence County’s Austin Chaffins was whistled for what turned out to be a pivotal intentional foul. It led to four straight made free throws for Doss and set off a 10-2 Dragons run to finish things.
York said his team struggled to gauge what constituted contact throughout the game.
“We were trying to intentionally foul one player,” York said. “I felt like we rode that player all the way up the court and then he passed the ball and they called the foul. The next play, we did the same thing, rode the same player up the court and they passed it to someone else and then got the foul call from behind and ended up calling an intentional.”
The loss ended the best season in the history of Lawrence County basketball. The Bulldogs appeared in their first Sweet Sixteen and finished 29-5 on the year.
“From day one at Lawrence County, freshman year, we knew that we were going to do something special,” said Robert Dalton, Timmy’s senior brother who finished with 12 points. “And we ended up doing it. We did our dream, we made it. It’s a shame we couldn’t go farther, but we gave it our all.”
Doss (28-5) vs. Mason County-Taylor County winner
6:30 p.m. Friday