There couldn’t have been a more stark contrast between two basketball programs if you tried.
On one hand you had Uplift, state champions in class 2A in 2015, and the biggest hoops powerhouse on the Northside over the past five years.
On the other, it’s been such a long time since Payton last participated in the Public League playoffs, that even their fans couldn’t recall when their last appearance was.
Though Payton’s playoff appearance was promptly ended by Uplift 75-63, aside from one poor stretch of play the Grizzlies gave the Uptown powerhouse all it could handle.
“Give Payton all the credit because they came in here trying to get the win, they didn’t come in here to lay down,” said Uplift head coach David Taylor. “They played a little tougher than us and our guys took them a little bit for granted and we were in a dog fight.”
Payton more then held their own throughout the opening passage of play. The Grizzlies were unafraid of Uplift and attacked the rim right from the start, drawing fouls and keeping the game relatively close.
However, with just two minutes left in the opening quarter, Payton forgot how to dribble a basketball which allowed Uplift to go on a 12-2 run to close the quarter to take an 11 point lead.
Uplift looked to continue the momentum into the second quarter which they did through the play of Toraze Dobbs. The senior only played two minutes in the first quarter due to foul trouble, but finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and scored an unprecedented four “and-one’s” in the second quarter alone to help Uplift maintain their lead.
“Credit to my teammates for looking for me in the paint,” said Dobbs. “They didn’t really have a big that could stop me and when I have a mismatch I’m going to score. They know I’m a big body and they just kept feeding me in the paint.”
“With Toraze it’s all about things that are going on with him other than basketball,” added Taylor. “Right now things are peaceful, so he’s good. Toraze has to understand that he’s a big a piece as any for our success and when he’s not in the game then it makes us less of a team and I think he’s starting to get that.”
Payton refused to lay down and fought back early in the third quarter behind sophomore Jabari Chiphe (20 points, five rebounds). Chiphe brought the momentum back in the Grizzlies favor with two big dunks, and was complimented by the three point shooting of Ryan Trotter (16 points) to cut the deficit down to single digits.
Unfortunately for Payton, after facilitating and picking his spots for most of the first three quarters, Markese Jacobs (18 points) came alive in the fourth quarter to erase any hope of a Payton comeback.
The Kansas commit paired up with Mike Flenory (six rebounds, seven assists) to score half of his 18 points in the final quarter, all via deep threes to seal the win for Uplift.
Taylor said: “Markese played really well and wasn’t forcing the issue like he can do. He played with poise tonight, kept under control and picked his spots and shot a high percentage.”
Though it may have been a much tougher game then anticipated for Uplift, a tough first round matchup may have been what the Titans needed as they advance further into the tournament.
“This tournament only gets tougher, and already having a tough game like we did tonight will only help us on Thursday,” said Taylor. “You would hope that it works that way but with kids you never know.”
“It’s all just a mental game,” concluded Dobbs. “We just need to play our game, and move onto the next one.”