The resilient Rams (28-2) refused to let a semifinal loss two years ago and a loss in the final last year — both to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary — define their legacy.
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“I never had a sense of panic,” Rams senior star Amari Davis said. “I’ve been playing for Trotwood for four years, and we’re used to being down. We just know if we ever get down, we just stay the course. That’s what we did tonight.”
Rockhold, in his eighth year as head coach, said he wasn’t sure yet what coaching the first state champion in Trotwood history means to him.
“When that buzzer went off the first thing that I thought about was the guys that were on this team and how proud of them I am,” he said. “So if you ask me how I feel right now it’s prideful. It feels like — when your kids have some success in their life — as a parent that’s what it feels like.”
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Trailing 68-60 in the fourth quarter, Davis showed why he is the Rams’ leader and the Division II player of the year. At 5:15: foul-line jumper. At 4:53: fast-break layup. At 4:34: one of his creative drives and lay-up. The score was 68-66.
“It gave us a lot of energy and we kept focused and we said we were going to do this,” said junior guard Sammy Anderson. “And I’m glad we did.”
South (28-2) responded and led 73-70 with 3:45 left. But the Bulldogs didn’t score again. Carl Blanton scored inside and Anderson made a free throw to tie the score. Blanton made two free throws for a 75-73 lead with 2:17 left. The Rams got the ball back with 1:59 left and called timeout. Rockhold had already told assistant Tony Clemons he wanted to hold the ball if they got the lead late. For the running Rams, this was out of character. But it worked. They survived a turnover and a South 3-point attempt inside 20 seconds that the Rams turned into an easy layup.
“Even though we didn’t have control, I still felt like we were in better shape,” Rockhold said. “So them having to chase us that last two minutes was I believe probably more than they were willing and ready to do at that point. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
Then it was time to celebrate.
“When that final buzzer sounded, it was straight tears,” Davis said. “We’ve been battling for four years and trying to get a ring.”
In his final game, Davis scored 24 points. He got a lot of offensive help from Anderson with 20 and junior Blanton with 17. The defense came through in the fourth quarter when Rockhold went small with 5-foot-10 Keon’te Huguely, whose defense and rebounding were crucial.
“I gotta believe — and maybe I’m wrong — but I gotta believe our experience being on this stage played a part in that last three and a half, four minutes, because we never wilted,’ Rockhold said. “Not one timeout did we have our heads down, even when we got down 11. The guys looked at each other and we’re OK.
“Just be who we are.”