As they warmed up before facing each other Saturday night, the Sturgeon and Douglass boys’ basketball teams seemed eerily similar.
Both shared the same nickname (Bulldogs) and were coming off double-digit road losses the night before. Their blue-and-white warm-ups looked alike. Even their logos matched.
But these resemblances mattered little once the game started. Sturgeon had Douglass in one important way: numbers.
It took most of the game, but Sturgeon (9-11) eventually wore its opponent down, winning 58-44 on Saturday at Rock Bridge High School.
Sturgeon coach Kevin Hicks used most of his bench in a rotation designed to keep his players fresh while wearing Douglass’ down.
“That’s been one of our strengths all year long,” Hicks said. “We can go 11 or 12 deep and not really lose a whole lot.”
Douglass coach Lynn Allen, meanwhile, had just eight players available. Two of those, Anthony Massengale and Kevin Griffith, sat out the first quarter after arriving late.
At the outset it looked like Hicks’ strategy would bury Douglass. Sturgeon led 26-16 and was primed for a blowout with time winding down in the first half.
Douglass then came alive. The Bulldogs played stifling defense and turned that pressure into baskets in transition.
Massengale converted a fast-break layup and followed it with an easy tip-in the next trip down the floor.
Landon Boone read a Sturgeon pass on the ensuing possession and went in for an uncontested layup shortly before the buzzer sounded.
The 6-0 Douglass run closed the gap at intermission to 26-22, but that was when the game began to turn.
“We got awfully excited once we played real well,” Allen said. “Then (Sturgeon called) a timeout and we acted like we won the national championship.”
In the second half, Douglass was unable to maintain the momentum.
Sturgeon wrestled away an offensive rebound on its first possession, scored an easy two points, and never looked back.
“We came out in the third quarter and had a little lull in scoring,” Allen said. “We had some crucial turnovers.”
Douglass was outscored 13-6 during the third and looked like a team tired from playing two games in as many nights.
“They just kept running,” Douglass junior Michael Hamilton said. “We kept trying to score, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”
Hicks said: “In the fourth quarter I think you could see that they lost a little bit in their steps. We were about a step or two quicker to loose balls.”
Despite the loss, which came on the heels of a 30-point loss to Tipton on Friday, Allen remained upbeat. He said the progress his young team has made will not show up in the won-loss column, however.
“Probably for us our best game of the year,” he said. “We had a lot of turnovers, but just as far as playing hard and finding a little team unity ... I thought overall we were real proud.”
Douglass (4-15) has lost six consecutive games dating back to Jan. 28. Its most recent victory came Jan. 26 in the consolation semifinals of the Keytesville Tournament.
Hamilton, whose seven points were second to Massengale’s 11, said his team was not giving up.
“We’re just going to keep fighting,” he said. “We’ll get our wins in.”