COLUMBIA — For the Frederick Douglass High School boys basketball team, the sixth man is the last man.
Only six Douglass players suited up for the Class Two District Seven semifinal against Salisbury High School in Sturgeon on Thursday. Only six players were eligible. After a battle with various eligibility issues at the beginning of the season, the Bulldogs advanced into the second game of the district tournament with a team half the size of most other teams in the bracket.
Douglass defeated Fayette High School 78-64 on Tuesday but followed the win with a 80-58 loss to Salisbury on Thursday. The Bulldogs led for part of the first half before the Panthers gained a lead they didn't give back.
Despite the shallow bench, Douglass fulfilled its goals of the season, head coach Lynn Allen said.
“I wanted to get into the final four,” Allen said. “Everything after the win on Tuesday was gravy.”
For the first time in its program, Douglass had only 3 players academically eligible to play at the start of the regular season. The rest of the team became qualified in January, and the Bulldogs played a short season of 14 games.
The small roster posed challenges for the Douglass team. While most teams are able to scrimmage at practice, the Bulldogs got their only scrimmage time during games. Despite the obstacles, Allen used the talent he had to work with to finish the season with a record of 10-4.
“No matter if you’re doing something right or wrong, he’s encouraging,” junior Douglass player James Hughes said of Allen.
The team will lose five seniors this year, making eligibility a question for next season. Allen remains unworried about the future.
“Let the chips fall where they may,” Allen said.