As Douglass players and coaches collided at center court inside State Fair Arena on Saturday night following the Class 4A boys’ state championship game, history could be counted on one hand with five extended fingers.
It was the universal high-five sign that would come to define an unprecedented run. The Trojans’ 78-50 win against Stilwell marked its fifth-straight state title — the most consecutive by any team, in any division, ever.
“It means a whole lot,” Douglass coach Kendal Cudjoe said. “This is so special; I can’t even describe it right now.”
Douglass junior guard Trey Sanders led all scorers with 24 points. Senior point guard Antonio Wilson and center Deondre Clark each added 12. The Trojans never trailed.
“It means a lot just to keep the tradition and keep the whole thing going,” Sanders said. “We didn’t want to be the first class to break it. We just came out here, gave it our all and things just worked out.”
A season that began with so many questions about experience and leadership finished with a gold ball presentation. The storylines were plentiful.
Cudjoe, a Douglass alum, entered this year as the Trojans’ third coach in three seasons. Douglass returned just one starter from last season and lost its star, point guard Stevie Clark, to graduation. Clark’s replacement, Wilson, sat out all of last season with an ACL tear.
“We don’t have a lot of experience, we had a lot of new faces,” Wilson said. “But we have a lot of smart people on this team. I felt like we were going to make it here again if we kept working hard.”
A separate cast of characters. A similar result.
On Saturday night, No. 5 Douglass (22-4) sprinted to a 20-10 lead and put on the full-court press. Attacking transition offense was followed by hounding defense. And the Trojans kept Stilwell’s star center, Matt Lea, in check.
Lea, a 6-foot-8 senior, entered Saturday night with a combined 50 points in two previous tournament games. But he was on the bench with three fouls midway through the second quarter. Lea finished with a team-high 19 points before fouling out with 4:53 left in regulation.
Chase Littlejohn, a junior forward who scored 12 points, helped carry the load in Lea’s absence, even bringing the Indians within three of the lead, 26-23, in the second quarter by scoring five straight points. But No. 11 Stilwell (25-6) couldn’t fill the void down low. The Indians were outrebounded 39-26.
For Stilwell, it was the heartbreaker that ended an otherwise stellar run to the title game. Since Jan. 25, the Indians went 14-2 — their only two losses coming to Douglass, once in regionals, 77-72, and again Saturday night.
“We wanted to set the tone,” Cudjoe said. “By playing them in the regionals, it kind of helped educate us. Our focus today was to try to keep those guys (Lea and Littlejohn) under 20 points.”
Only five other teams have won four-straight state championships — Star Spencer from 1976-79; Millwood from 1978-81; Tulsa Washington from 1984-87; McGuinness from 1998-2001; OCS from 2004-07.
The Trojans finished their drive for five. Now, it’s on to the search for six.
“We’re going to have to work just as hard, or maybe harder to win another,” Cudjoe said. “We have a good junior class right now, so we have a lot of guys we can build around. I like my middle school team and I like my ninth grade team. It’s just a matter of letting them grow up. They’re sitting and watching, and I know they want to be a part of it.”