Destiny's size, length and depth wear down Darlington in D4 final
Playing against the Destiny basketball team is a difficult task.
The Eagles are loaded with size, length, athleticism an intense desire to win and a very respected coach in Branden Joseph.
But what really wears on opponents is the depth of the school located on the northwest side of Milwaukee.
Darlington found that out first hand during Saturday's WIAA Division 4 state championship game at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Destiny's reserves outscored Darlington 27-0 and helped pave the way for the school to win its first state basketball title as the Eagles posted a 76-55 victory over the previously unbeaten Redbirds to cap a memorable 25-1 season.
Junior Diovonte Caldwell (6-0) and senior Romaine Robinson (5-7) came off the bench to score 14 and 9 points, respectively, for the Eagles, who also got four points from junior reserve Arlester Jones (6-5).
"The depth this team has shown throughout the year is amazing," Joseph said. "To go with our starting five and then to bring in Romaine and Diovonte off the bench ... it drains teams. It wears them out and is definitely in our favor."
Even with the 27-0 advantage in bench points, Destiny had to withstand a strong second-half rally from Darlington, which trailed 34-27 at intermission.
A three-point basket from senior Ryan Glendenning (6-0) with 5:37 left culminated a 13-6 run and pulled the Redbirds within 55-53.
But a twisting, spinning layup by the athletic Caldwell started a 21-2 over the final 5:37 of the game as Destiny put the game out of reach with its quickness, foul shooting and acrobatic dunks.
Senior Terrance Banyard (6-6) finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists and a blocked shot while also throwing down several crowd-pleasing dunks.
Senior Sarion McGee (6-7) finished with 14 points, 14 points and 2 blocked shots and his presence in the lane helped to keep the Darlington players a bit off balance on their drives to the hoop.
"You have to keep going up strong even if you get a shot or two blocked," said Edgewood College recruit Will Schwartz, an active 6-foot-1 guard who led Darlington with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "They have some very good shot blockers. Their size and length was a factor."
Darlington also got 16 points from Glendenning and eight points from senior Hunter Johnson (6-0).
But the Redbirds went just 3 of 22 from three-point range, a crucial stat playing against a Destiny team that started a frontline of Banyard, McGee and senior Zachary Markland (6-5).
"We gave it everything we had," first-year Darlington coach Tom Uppena said. "Destiny's a hell of a club. They played well and we just didn't hit enough shots.
"But we never backed down and gave it our best shot. I cannot fault the effort of our kids. They it all they had."
For Destiny, which sustained its lone loss in early December by two points to Division 2 Milwaukee Pius XI Catholic, the state title is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a group of seven seniors.
"As a player, I was in the state tournament in 1991 (with Milwaukee Bay View) and I wanted my players to experience it," Joseph said. "It's life changing. This team has done an excellent job of showing perseverance all season so when Darlington made its run, I wasn't too nervous. That's the luxury of having so many seniors."