The Basketball Tournament: Red Scare coaches hope to keep tradition going after semifinal loss

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Jul. 31—Scoochie Smith paused to applaud the fans who cheered for him all week before leaving the court with his arm around Jordan Sibert. The same moment could have taken place in 2014 when they lost to Florida in the Elite Eight or 2015 when they fell short against Oklahoma in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

The former Dayton Flyers stars created more shining moments than sad ones in their college basketball careers, but few players avoid the disappointing walk to the locker room after a tournament loss at the end of the season. That's what happened to seven former Flyers, two former Ohio State Buckeyes and one former Wright State player on Sunday in The Basketball Tournament.

Sibert, Smith and their Red Scare teammates thrilled fans all week at UD Arena, winning four games in six days in The Basketball Tournament. Only on the seventh day did the magic desert them. They made decisions in the final quarter that suggested tired legs and minds. They also ran into a team — one on intent on reaching the championship game after losing in the semifinals on the same court last season — that had all the answers.

Blue Collar U, a Buffalo Bulls alumni team, made the big shots Saturday the Red Scare made on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. They beat the Dayton Flyers alumni team 74-69 in front of 4,412 fans, including most of the current Dayton basketball team, who maybe will use the experience of watching the Red Scare all week in their much-anticipated season ahead.

"We think we just kind of showed everyone what the Dayton Flyers program really stands for," Red Scare assistant coach Jeremiah Bonsu said. "A lot of people say family at the end of everything. We've been saying family, True Team, whatever, for a while now, and every time we come back, they're all involved now. No one's trying to big time another person. It's about understanding the history of the program. It didn't start with this group. It didn't start in 2020. It didn't start in 2013. It started way, way back, and so everyone who's been a Dayton Flyer, it's family."

That family ended its fourth TBT with a 9-4 mark in the tournament. Darrell Davis, the only player on the roster in all four years, wants the tradition to continue.

"Thank you, Flyer Nation, for all your support this entire tournament," Davis wrote on Twitter. "We all are very appreciative. See you all next year."

For Bonsu and Gruden, the two former Dayton walk-ons who founded the team in 2019, the job of putting the team together every year is a tough one. They're both getting deeper into their coaching careers and further from their days as Flyers.

"We would definitely like to (keep the Red Scare going)," Gruden said. "Any Dayton Flyers out there who want to help, we could use some help, especially in the offseason. It's a lot more work than people think. We want to keep going and going and making it bigger and better each year. The more help, the better. The community keeps helping us and the university, so hopefully we keep doing it."

Smith turned out to be as big an addition as everyone expected. In his first TBT, he made 9 of 18 3-pointers and led the Red Scare with 14.6 points and 4.8 assists per game. Those totals were close to his averages as a senior at Dayton in 2016-17 (13.8 points and 4.5 assists).

Davis ranked second on the team with 13.2 points per game and made 11 of 24 3-pointers (45.8 percent).

In his second tournament with the Red Scare, Jordan Sibert also averaged in double figures with 13.2 points per game.

The run to the semifinals put the $1 million prize within reach for the Red Scare. Instead, Blue Collar U will play Americana for Autism in the championship game at 8 p.m. Tuesday. It will air on ESPN.

The thought of the cash prize, which is deposited in the bank accounts of the winning players immediately after the final game, excited the players, but Bonsu said they wanted to win the games more than anything.

"Once the game starts, you're just focused on winning," he said. "I think our family and friends were thinking about the money more than we were."

That dream faded in the fourth quarter, which Blue Collar U dominated. Earlier, the Red Scare erased seven-point deficits, 14-7 and 27-20, in the first and second quarters and took a 35-33 lead into halftime after a basket at the buzzer by Josh Cunningham. They led by as many as four points in the third quarter, 39-35, before Blue Collar U started to assert itself.

The game turned in the final four minutes of the third. After a 3-pointer by gave the Red Scare a 42-41 lead at the 5:30 mark, they were outscored 10-0 in the next four minutes.

The Red Scare missed six shots in a row until Smith ended the run by making three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt and then two more on the next possession.

Davis scored a layup with 8 seconds left in the third quarter only to have Antwon Lillard make a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Blue Collar U a 55-49 lead entering the fourth.

The Red Scare had one more run in it during the fourth quarter. Smith made two 3-pointers in the first minute and then tied the game with two free throws. The Red Scare made 21 of 23 free throws in the game. Smith made 22 of 23 free throws in the tournament.

After that point, the game got away from the Red Scare. Blue Collar U scored eight straight points to take a 65-57 lead and then took a 65-59 lead into the Elam Ending. The first team to reach 73 points would win.

Ryan Mikesell gave the Red Scare brief hope with a 4-point play, cutting the deficit to 72-69. Wes Clark, who led Blue Collar U with 22 points, made the game-ending jumper on the next possession.

"We knew it was going to be back and forth," Red Scare coach Joey Gruden said. "They're really good. We're really good. It was just a clash of two good teams, and they just had two big shots to start the fourth, and it's hard to come back against really good teams like that. One of their guys had a big 3 that we didn't plan on him hitting. It stings, but it is what it is. It's basketball."