It was a heartbreaking loss when you take into account how the Tigers dominated most of the second half after a disastrous second quarter,
It was the second quarter in which the Tigers scored only three points and that left them with an 11 point 29-18 deficit.
Coach Jace Newcomb talked to his team at halftime about getting better movement on offense.
“We were standing around on offense,” Newcomb said. “In the third quarter we came out and played like we were supposed to play. We were moving better. That made all the difference in the world.”
Duke had everything going its way in the second half. The Tigers attacking offense got Graham in foul trouble. Two of the Chieftains leading scorers Chase Smith and Bryan Smith fouled out in the third quarter.
The Tigers erased the 11 point deficit and took the lead early in the fourth quarter. Then Duke led 49-45 when Kale Thompson hit a shot with 2:32 left in the game.
Graham came back on a three-point shot by Zach Mitchell with 1:38 remaining to make it 49-48. Kevin Rice put the Tigers up by three (51-48) with a bucket with 1:21 left.
Graham’s Trae Morgan put up a line shot that looked like it had no chance of going in, but it did and it tied the game at 51-51 with 1:05 remaining, A Duke turnover gave the ball back to the Chieftains. Seth Gambler hit the back end of a two-shot free throw opportunity to put Graham up 52-51 with 9.4 seconds left on the clock. Duke brought the ball down the floor. They came loose and in a scramble Rice was called for a foul. Morgan hit a pair of free throws and the Chieftains led 54-51 with 3.9 seconds left.
Newcomb called time out to plot strategy, but a desperation half court shot by Jeramey Lennox was not good.
Rice led Duke with 13 points. Kale Thompson had 12 points and Kanyon Combs 10 points
You can’t blame the Tigers for being frustrated. Three of the Chieftains three-point buckets were improbable. There was the three-pointer by Morgan which tied the game. One three-point basket in the second quarter kissed off the glass from the base line and another was banked in.
“They made a couple of big shots at the end,” Newcomb said. “Take nothing away from them. They played hard. I should have had us in a man-to-man (defense) toward the end. Looking at the two bank shots, I should have known that stuff was falling.”
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise outstanding season, and Newcomb alluded to that.
“Our kids played hard,” Newcomb said.. “I’m proud of them. We made a good run. That’s a tough one.”
Graham 54, Duke 51
Duke – Thompson 6-0-12, Chambless 2-5-9, Combs 3-4-10, Lennox 2-0-4, Rice 6-0-13, McMains 1-0-2, Houston 0-1-1 Totals: 20-10-51 3 point goals – Rice.
Graham –Mitchell 4-1-11, Sands 0-1-1, Jack 6-2-18, C. 4-0-10, B. Smith 3-2-9, Morgan 1-2-5, Gambler 1-1-3. Totals: 19-9-54 3 point goals – Mitchell 2, Jack 4, Smith 2
Duke 15 3 20 13 – 51
Graham 11 18 13 12 – 54