KONZ | Basketball coach Tony Williams helping build a brand at Doss High
"They picked us seventh in the region, they said we couldn't get back to the state tournament again. We had nine players who left Doss and were not a part of this year's team. No one expected us to be back."
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The past two seasons at Doss High School have been nothing short of a dream for head basketball coach Tony Williams.
When Williams first landed the job at his alma mater 2014, he proudly stated: “I want to bring a state championship to Doss.”
In 2015, he guided his team to the Dragons’ first trip to the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena in Lexington since 1987. They defeated Williamsburg in the first round, before losing to Covington Catholic in the quarterfinal.
This year, Doss High made it to the Sweet 16 again and ended up in the championship game after defeating South Laurel 70-63 in the Final Four. The team ultimately fell short, losing 61-52 to Paul Laurence Dunbar for the championship.
On Tuesday, the school held a celebration to congratulate the Doss basketball players on their runner-up finish in the tournament.
"They picked us seventh in the region, they said we couldn't get back to the state tournament again," Williams said Tuesday morning. "We had nine players who left Doss and were not a part of this year's team. No one expected us to be back."
Williams, a 1996 graduate of Doss, played at the University of Louisville from 1996-2000 and played 10 years professionally in Turkey, France, Italy and Lebanon. He came back to finish his degree at U of L and was tapped to be the coach at St. Francis in 2013-14.
When former Doss High basketball coach K.C. Goodin joined Kentucky Wesleyan University in 2014, Williams was offered the top job at Doss.
"I couldn't say no," Williams said. "It's an awesome feeling to be here, a lot of things are still the same. I am proud to be a teacher at Doss High and I am proud to be the basketball coach here."
Williams calls this year's team "special."
"It a hard-working blue collar team who overcame a lot of obstacles," he said. "We fought hard every day in practice and stuck together."
He said he knew his team would "be OK" last summer when two seniors -- Kenyi Bryant and Kelshawn Knight -- enrolled at Doss.
"On top of that, the players I really needed stayed here and are still here right now," he said.
One of those players -- LaRon Hargrove -- has accepted a full academic and athletic scholarship and will attend Georgetown College this fall.
Principal Marty Pollio says Williams is playing a key part in helping him build the future at Doss.
"He was very successful here as a student and as a player -- and he carried that reputation with him to U of L," Pollio said. "That says a lot about who he is as an individual. He's a great role model for these kids."
Aside from Williams' background, Pollio says he "has an ability to bring kids together."
"It's not easy to build a team and get them all to work and play together," Pollio said. "To take a bunch of kids on a team that was not predicted to finish in the Top 5 and lead them to finishing second in the state shows what he can do."
And with two juniors and a "slew of sophomores and one freshman" on this year's team, Williams is hopeful for next year.
"Don't count us out," Williams said.
Pollio says he would love for Doss to be back in Lexington next year.
"Most importantly for me is how these kids have represented the school in such a positive way," he said. "These are great kids who work hard. That's a testament to Coach Williams."
Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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