With four minutes remaining in its state quarterfinal showdown with Male, Frederick Douglass looked done. At least, to the untrained eyes within Rupp Arena.
Four minutes, it turns out, was plenty enough time for the Broncos to muster the effort needed to advance in the UK HealthCare Boys’ Basketball Sweet 16. The 11th Region champions were to meet either George Rogers Clark or Lyon County on Saturday for a shot at the state championship game, set for later the same day.
Frederick Douglass (33-2) closed on a 17-0 run over the final 4:16 to defeat Male 58-54. Armelo Boone, who had a game-high 19 points, collected a rebound and connected on a pair of free throws to ice the win with 6.3 seconds left.
“It’s hard to know what to say,” Douglass Coach Wes Scarberry said before reflecting on the doubt that’s surrounded the program since the abrupt removal of its former head coach, Jason Moseley, in late August. Douglass, in just its sixth year of existence, started 3-2 with the losses coming to 11th Region teams — Lexington Catholic and Great Crossing — picked above it in the 11th Region preseason rankings; the Broncos, whose leading scorer and rebounder transferred last offseason, were picked fifth by the coaches.
“Our kids have been resilient all year,” Scarberry said. “Since day one we’ve overcome a lot of obstacles.”
His team throughout the season showed it was capable of racking up points in a hurry, but seldom did the Broncos find themselves in a double-digit hole — especially with the game winding down. When Male’s lead swelled to 54-41 on a lightly impeded layup by Demetris White with 4:23 to play, Scarberry made sure his guys knew that was plenty enough time to mount a rally.
A minute later, he proved prescient: Douglass suddenly was down just four, 54-50, thanks to a couple of steals and timely shooting. The second of two triples by Boone amid the run brought the Broncos to within 54-53 with 1:53 left, and a subsequent turnover by the Bulldogs allowed Douglass to draw up the go-ahead bucket, a layup by Logan Busson.
“A couple possessions were in the wrong spots and weren’t even in the right press,” Scarberry said. “It was just their effort, more than anything. It’s not always X’s and O’s. It’s effort, heart and determination.”
For almost 28 minutes, Male executed like a championship contender. Over the final 4:23, it was 0-for-5 from the floor and had four turnovers.
“It sucks that you make those turnovers at the end that cost you,” said Male senior Jack Edelen. “But I think there’s little things throughout the game — you could’ve done that, you could’ve done this — and that’s just how the game went.”
A day after making 15 three-pointers — a single-game state-tournament record — Male made only four of its 15 tries from distance. Douglass matched each make but finished with a sizable discrepancy in overall shooting: the Broncos went 15-of-31 versus Male’s 23-of-50 clip.
“You probably won’t see too many games where a team wins and you have those numbers,” Scarberry said.
One stat decidedly in Frederick Douglass’s corner: free-throw shooting. The Bulldogs were 24-of-29 at the line while Male made only four of its eight opportunities. Aveion Chenault led the Broncos there, going 9-for-10 en route to 13 points.
As part of its game-ending run, Chenault made a leaping steal and pushed it ahead to Ty Webb for a layup to get Douglass within single digits.
Said Chenault: “When we got that steal, we knew it was our time to go on a run and take over the game.”