The Basketball Tournament: It’s just like old times for Scoochie Smith, Red Scare teammates

Dayton alumni team dominates Elam Ending in quarterfinal victory against Best Virginia

Dakota Landers, son of Robert Landers and nephew of Trey Landers, got the honor of moving the Red Scare ahead on The Basketball Tournament bracket on Friday.

Trey, the former Flyer and current Red Scare guard, gave the placard to his nephew and led him to the giant bracket off the court. Dakota stuck it on the bracket. Trey then lifted him in the air as the Red Scare players celebrated and everyone snapped photos.

The TBT has created unique moments all week for Dayton Flyers fans. This was one of many. It has been a feast of nostalgia with former Flyers creating new memories on their old court.

The Red Scare clinched a 67-60 victory in the quarterfinals against Best Virginia, the West Virginia alumni team, on a free throw by Ryan Mikesell.

“It was a great game,” said Mikesell, who scored nine points. “It was an awesome, awesome environment. It literally brings you back to your college days. I’m so glad we got the opportunity to play here.

The Red Scare will play Blue Collar U, a Buffalo Bulls alumni team, at 6 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals. Blue Collar U beat Heartfire 74-66 in the first quarterfinal Friday. The Wichita State alumni team, Aftershocks, will play Americana for Autism at 4 p.m. Saturday. The semifinal winners play for the $1 million prize at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The game Saturday will be the fifth game in seven days at UD Arena for the Red Scare and their fans.

“Basketball heaven,” wrote Dayton guard Koby Brea on Twitter.

Brea sat behind the Red Scare bench along with teammates DaRon Holmes II, Mustapha Amzil and Kaleb Washington. Former Flyers Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher, as well as Obi’s dad, Obadiah, had seats nearby for the fourth straight game.

The crowd of 4,340 was the biggest of the week. Red Scare guard Scoochie Smith said it felt like old times even if was far from the typical sellout crowd of 13,000-plus at UD Arena.

“It was amazing,” Smith said. “We had a way better crowd, and with the way the court is set up, everybody’s all together, so it makes it even more enjoyable.”

“It was definitely the loudest,” coach Joey Gruden said, “because I was trying to yell at our team a few times, and they couldn’t hear me. I don’t have the loudest voice, but it was loud, and it was really cool.”

The TBT installed its own court for the final three rounds and moved the benches to the other side of the court, where they’re placed during the First Four. The TBT used space on the west side of the court for signs showing the bracket and banners honoring past champions.

The Red Scare have rewarded their loyal fans with four thrilling victories. They won this game by ending it on a 10-3 run. Smith hit two free throws just before the Elam Ending to give the Red Scare a 59-57 lead.

At that point, the target score became 67 points. The first team to reach that total would win the game. The Red Scare didn’t take long to get there.

Jordan Sibert made a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 62-57. After Trevor Thompson made 1 of 2 free throws to push the lead to 63-57, Darrell Davis made a 3-pointer, leaving the Red Scare one point short of victory.

On the next possession, after a 3-pointer by Best Virginia, Dayton native Juwan Staten Sr. fouled Mikesell, who calmly sunk the free throw to end the game. His teammates mobbed him at halfcourt. He joined Jordan Sibert and Josh Cunningham on the list of Red Scare players to hit the game-ending shot this week.

One player who hasn’t hit the Elam Ending shot is the player who has been the Red Scare’s MVP: Scoochie Smith. He passed on playing with the team the last three years but picked a good time to play and has lived up to the reputation as a clutch player he developed during his four seasons at Dayton. He’s making big shots and key passes — he assisted Sibert on the game-ending 3-pointer Tuesday in the second round and Josh Cunningham on Wednesday in the round of 16 — and putting the team on his back at key moments.

Smith led the Red Scare with 17 points and added eight assists Friday. He made 3 of 5 3-pointers.

Sibert (12), Davis (11) and Trevor Thompson (11) all scored in double figures. Eight of the 10 Red Scare players scored. Everyone grabbed at least one rebound.

Smith said the key for him is understanding the defense and knowing what they want to do.

“When guys like Sibert and Darell are on, things are a lot easier,” Smith said, “because the defense has to choose between stopping me or them. Pick your poison.”

The Red Scare won, in part, by grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. They had 22 second-chance points to nine for Best Virginia.

“We’ve been battling,” Gruden said. “We always find a way. I don’t know what it is about this building. But when you put the jersey on this building, you have a toughness and a sense of pride to you, and our team has done that for all four games.”

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