Most coaches run through the same list when they address their teams on the eve of a big game.
Eat balanced meals. Get a good night’s rest. Be on time for the team bus.
Lynn Allen is familiar with the routine. He has coached basketball since 1973, and after all that time the words can lose their meaning.
On Sunday afternoon, the Douglass coach had a different approach. He told his players to dress nicely, as though they will be attending a funeral.
Wear khakis, a sweater and suede shoes, Allen said. He wanted his team to make a classy first impression.
“A three-piece suit wouldn’t hurt, either,” Allen joked.
Allen’s dress tips might foreshadow the end of his team’s season. The Bulldogs (8-16) have a mission tonight. It could not be plainer or more difficult.
To knock off undefeated Salisbury in the Class 2 District 7 tournament opener, Douglass will have to play a flawless game.
But the Bulldogs have been anything but perfect this year.
Before winning its past three games, Douglass had gone nearly a month between victories. Just two weeks ago, the Bulldogs lost to Chamois by 45 points.
“There’s no set way to play a 24-0 team,” Allen said. “You just have to come out and play as hard as you can.”
Allen’s players showed signs of their effort during Sunday’s practice. Senior Will Todd’s hustle especially impressed Allen.
“If we can get everyone playing to his level of intensity, we’ll have something,” Allen said.
Todd wrestled around on the floor for loose balls, boxed out hard for rebounds, and drove the lane with a purpose.
He even jumped into the stands to retrieve a teammate’s errant pass.
“It’s just motivation to want the ball,” Todd said. “If you want the ball, you want the ball. If you don’t, then you’re just going to look at it.”
On offense, Allen hopes to get the ball to junior Anthony Massengale, who has led the team in its past two games.
On Wednesday at Yeshiva, Massengale scored 18 points and grabbed 24 rebounds.
He added 19 points and 12 rebounds the next night at Wentworth Military Academy as Douglass came back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
“They’re coming on,” Allen said. “Overall we’re pretty pleased the way things are going, with where we started.”
The Bulldogs know that most people expect their winning streak and season to end tonight.
Harrisburg and host Salisbury are unbeaten and are projected to meet in the district final.
Allen tried to use that possible scenario to motivate his team.
“We have a little something to say about that,” he said during practice.
Senior Simon-Shavers Hall said the Bulldogs are poised for the upset.
If they keep the game close, they know they might just figure out a formula for beating Salisbury.
“If we lose, we’ll lose fighting,” Shavers-Hall said.