By Joe Gisondi
CUMBERLAND –– Caleb Hurst smiled broadly Saturday night when he reflected on his two dunks.
There was the one about two minutes into the Cumberland Turkey Tourney championship that put the Trojans ahead 5-4, where took a pass on a fast break, cut straight to the basket, and briefly grabbed the rim after slamming in the ball with both hands.
There was also the two-handed slam with 1 minute, 52 seconds left in the half that put Charleston ahead, 50-42, and solicited a roar from the crowd and high-fives from his teammates.
“Once you hit a dunk or two, your confidence goes through the roof,” Hurst said. “It’s a blast.”
“It’s fun for everyone,” said teammate Isaac Miller.
“It gets the crowd into it, pumps the team up, everybody’s into it,” said Charleston coach Brad Oakley. “A lot of time it will raise your level of play in the short term. But, in a six or eight-point game, two or three possessions in a game makes a big difference.”
That was the case Saturday night.
Dieterich relied on its big bodies, physical play and an effective pick-and-roll approach to pressure Charleston through most of the game. But the Maroons could not keep up that level of play down the stretch. Dieterich coach Josh Krumwiede said his team, ultimately, was fatigued at the end: “Our guys weren’t hustling out and contesting shots.”
The Trojans subsequently outscored the Maroons 11-1 during the final three minutes to capture this boys basketball tournament for the first time since 2015 with the 67-59 victory at Cumberland High’s Waldrip Gym. Charleston had finished runner-up in both 2016 and 2018.
Charleston, which led for most of the game, saw its eight-point lead evaporate in the fourth quarter after Dieterich went on a 9-3 run driven by a 3-pointer, short jumper, two free throws and a lay-in that tied the score, 58-58, with just over three minutes left in the game – the first tie since early in the second quarter.
That’s when Miller delivered two decisive 3-pointers. He took a swing pass to score and make it 61-58 with 2:37 remaining. About 40 seconds later, Miller drained another 3-pointer, this time from the right side that made it 64-58, pumping his fist as he raced back on defense and effectively putting the game out of reach.
Miller said he might have been forcing his shots early on. “I think I got a little more confident down the stretch,” he said. “Early on, I was playing a little nervously because it’s a championship game. So once I got used to it, I kinda got in a groove of things, and got rhythm, and started shooting better.”
Oakley said he never wavered in his confidence of his senior forward.
“I want him (Isaac) to be ready to catch and shoot it,” Oakley said. “He has to have a short memory. You miss a couple: Hey, you’ve got to be ready to take good ones. If you take good shots, eventually they’re going to go in if you’re a good shooter.”
Miller finished with 20 points, 13 in the second half.
Hurst had led the charge in the opening quarter when he scored 15 points. While he added just three more points afterward, he swatted away a shot, deflected several passes and ignited several fast-break points off rebounds and precise long-range passes –– including one in the opening period where he tossed, one-handed, the ball more than halfway down the court, just ahead of Luke Bell, who raced downcourt, caught up with the ball, took a few steps and layed in the basket untouched.
“I have confidence in those guys to step up and make plays,” Oakley said.
After the game, Dieterich coach Josh Krumwiede shook his head when he considered that Charleston made 12 3-pointers in the game. His players, conversely, made three.
“Our philosophy was –– and you’re always going to wonder as a coach after the fact –– is that we weren’t sure that we could keep up with them (Charleston) and their athleticism,” Krumwiede said. “So we wanted to make sure we could contain them inside, and if they happened to miss a shot that’s great for us. The whole idea was to keep them out of the lane and make sure they’re taking contested shots. Unfortunately, down the stretch they made them. We probably got a little fatigued, probably got a little tired.”
Miller made five 3s, while both Hurst and Lane Harrell made three apiece. Luke Bell sank one, as well.
The Trojans, who finished 11-19 last season, are now 3-0.
Miller and Hurst were both named to the all-tournament team.
Charleston 67, Dieterich 59
Hurst 7 1-4 18, Harrell 3 1-2 10, Bell 4 2-2 11, Burgess 1 0-0 2, Miller 7 1-2 20, Braun 0 0-0 0, Schuette 0 0-0 0, Bickford 3 0-1 6. Totals 25 5-11 67.
3-pointers: Miller 5, Hurst 3, Harrell 3, Bell 1.