By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
This time, they were tears of joy.
Dora hoisted the first boys’ basketball state championship in program history Friday night with a 59-49 win over St. Elizabeth in the Class 1 finals at JQH Arena.
Isaac Haney had a game-high 25 points. Teammate Waylon Masters added 16 points, seven rebounds and vital post defense.
The outcome was sweet redemption for a Falcons team that lost in the state title game a year ago.
“Last year, I cried a lot,” Masters said. “Honestly, I’ve cried more now. It’s been so emotional. To experience what felt like the lowest point, then, to experience what feels like the highest point. It’s wild. It was everything tonight.”
Dora’s only other state title in school history came in 2009, when the Falcons won the Class 1 baseball crown. Rick Luna was the coach for that team and this one.
But this time, he had his three sons – Bryson, Mason and Auston – on the floor in Dora’s starting lineup.
“It’s good to win one for dad,” said Dora junior Bryson Luna. “He had to have us to get him here, but it’s okay.”
The Falcons’ road to their first state championship was not easy.
In the Class 1 playoffs, Dora beat four teams ranked in the top 10: South Iron (1), Jefferson (3), St. Elizabeth (4) and Delta (9).
“That’s hats off to these guys and the work they’ve put in all season long,” said Dora coach Rick Luna of his team. “We’ve always said: ‘One goal, one team, one family.’ That’s what we stick by.”
Said Haney: “It encompasses the struggle we went through last year and all the hard work we put in to get back this year. Throughout the season, some of those big wins were stepping stones for us. The end-goal was ultimately to get back here.”
Jefferson beat Dora in the state finals a year ago, leaving the Falcons heartbroken.
“I’m not a very good loser. And this bunch isn’t either,” Rick Luna said. “We try to be good losers. Anything we do, we try to come out on top, whether it’s on the field or the court. The feeling is a lot better today.”
Against St. Elizabeth, Dora got some much-needed breathing room in the second half.
Haney hit a deep 3-pointer and Bryson Luna followed with a three-point play that put Dora up 46-34 with five minutes remaining.
St. Elizabeth, which was within four late in the third quarter, did not get the deficit under double digits again.
“(St. Elizabeth) did a good job of putting us in a half-court game,” Rick Luna said.
Dora went scoreless for a five-minute stretch from the first half into the second half.
With its offense slowed, Dora dug in on defense.
Masters helped the Falcons limit St. Elizabeth’s 6’5” post duo, Brady Heckemeyer and Ross Struemph, to 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
“We’ve really worked with (Masters) the last two weeks on his positioning – getting in front of post players – and then his help-side (defense) on the back,” Rick Luna said. “He’s a very high-IQ basketball player. What he’s done the last few weeks… He overcomes a lot of size just by outsmarting a guy.”
Dora 59, St. Elizabeth 49
Dora 14 12 10 23 — 59
St. Elizabeth 10 9 12 18 — 49
Dora (32-2 overall) – Isaac Haney 25, Waylon Masters 16, Bryson Luna 9, Mason Luna 8, Auston Luna 1
St. Elizabeth (25-6 overall) – Brady Heckemeyer 11, Ross Struemph 10, Coltin Green 9, Nolan Holtmeyer 8, Carson Kesel 6, Brett Wieberg 3, Jace Kesel 2