Denmark’s boys basketball team figured that the last win would be the toughest to get.
The Danes steamrolled through their Region 7-4A slate this year, and early in their final regular season game against Marist on Friday, Denmark was showing why that was the case, with the War Eagles looking outclassed at times.
But as the fourth quarter approached, Marist had picked itself up, narrowing Denmark’s lead to seven points entering the final frame. With just a minute left, the Danes’ situation was more dire, up by just three with a minute to go.
Denmark’s Joseph Scott connected on a wide-open shot just inside the arc with just 1:07 left, but after the War Eagles quickly responded, the Danes still needed any kind of momentum shift they could get.
Scott helped provide that spark on Denmark’s next possession. With
just 37 seconds to play, Scott again found his way into open space. Teammate
Robert Cowherd took notice, lobbing the ball to the rim, where Scott was there
for a dunk that electrified the arena.
“My man Rob is always looking for me on those lobs,” Scott said. “It's been like that all season, so I knew as soon as he had that wide open lane, I knew he's throwing it to me. I was ready for it.”
From there, all the Danes had to do was play solid defense and hit their free throws. And after they did just that, they came away with a 68-61 win that completed an undefeated 12-0 run through their region. They’ll head into next week’s region tournament with a 20-5 overall mark.
“It's a dream, to be honest with you,” Scott said. “Last year we didn't play region play that well, but this year we really wanted to focus on coming out and really asserting our dominance and just showing that we were the team to beat.
“The game was pretty close and I'm glad we pulled it out. It was crazy for sure.”
Marist trailed 33-21 at halftime, but the War Eagles went on a 10-0 run to start the second half to narrow the gap, while Denmark suddenly struggled to rebound and make shots. That margin continued to close in the fourth, as the War Eagles began to ramp up their defensive pressure.When Cowherd wasn’t creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, he was creating them himself: he led Denmark with 24 points, and started his team well in the first with two threes. Scott, who ended his night with 17, was also very active in the game’s opening quarter, connecting on three-straight buckets – one off a no-look Cowherd pass – to give the Danes 17-3 lead.
“That's the way the game of basketball goes,” Denmark coach Tyler Whitlock said. “Every team's going to go on a run. They had a spurt when they got hot and ours just happened to come in the first half. I was just glad that we were able to stop the run quick enough to still be able to come out with a victory.”
The road won’t get any easier for Denmark as it tries to defend its region title from its inaugural season. This year’s team looks stronger than it was a year ago, but a close win like Friday’s might be what just the Danes needed.
“It's very good for them to experience that going into region and going into the state playoffs again,” Whitlock said.
“It's always great to be able to get to 20 wins in the regular season and go undefeated in the region, but I don't think we're satisfied -- at least, I hope we're not satisfied.”