Robert E. Lee junior Will Dougherty is listed at 6-1, so he’s not tall enough to play the center position at the Class 5A level.
Tell that to opposing players who consistently watch the shorter Dougherty out-quick them to rebounds and loose balls and are unable to prevent him from muscling in for putbacks off the glass.
The Red Raiders are enjoying their best season in half a decade. Lee has won four straight District 12-5A games to sit tied for second in the league at 5-2 and 18-7 overall. The Red Raiders host district leader Mesquite (16-9, 6-1) at 7 p.m. today at the REL Varsity Gym.
Lee coach Alan Johnston believes Will “Big Nasty” Dougherty is playing a key role in that success.
“We call him that because he’s deceivingly athletic, can jump and dunk the ball, is strong, aggressive and highly competitive,” Johnston said. “Will is crafty. In basketball you talk about size and you look at Will at 6-1, but he plays like he’s 6-5. He’s just a workhorse down there.”
Dougherty’s “workhorse” style paid big dividends in Lee’s last home game against North Mesquite. The Red Raiders were struggling on offense in the first period before a back cut by Dougherty got Lee on the board. He followed it up with a putback and made a similar impact in the third period to spark REL with a move in the paint and reverse layup off a rebound.
Dougherty finished the win with 10 points and four rebounds.
“Everyone is bigger than me, so I just have to play harder,” said Dougherty, who is averaging 4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. “I guess it’s easier because I am so small, but I am a big guy, so I have a low center of gravity so I can’t get pushed around.”
Dougherty believes his height allows him to sneak in and grab rebounds away from taller players.
“I don’t get that many, but the ones I do it’s just everyone boxing out and if the ball comes to me I will get it,” Dougherty said.
After dropping two of their first three league games, the Red Raiders are enjoying four-straight victories — one of those coming on the road against Mesquite Horn, Lee’s first win over the Jaguars since 2009.
“It’s been a lot of fun; getting to play with all of my best friends,” Dougherty said. “We have so many seniors this year and we have so many players who get it done. Like if we are in a close game and we need someone to hit a big shot, we have multiple guys who can do it.”
REL now sets its sights on Mesquite, a team the Red Raiders haven’t beaten since 2010 and not defeated at home since 2006. Lee lost to the Skeeters 55-48 in their first meeting at Mesquite.
“Hopefully, we can just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Dougherty said. “We are really pumped for this game. It’s the first time in a long time that anybody at Lee in basketball has had this opportunity.”
Lady Raiders face tough test on road at Mesquite
Lee had its win streak snapped on Tuesday by Rockwall, and the Lady Raiders (13-16, 3-5 in District 12-5A) now attempt to get back on track against Mesquite.
The Lady Skeeters (18-11, 7-2) routed Lee 68-44 in the team’s first meeting at Varsity Gym.
In Tuesday’s 60-50 home loss to Rockwall, senior Ciara Johnson led the Lady Raiders with 18 points.
Mesquite’s Brianna Williams is averaging 12.6 points per game with Briana Caro chipping in 11.6 points per game. In the team’s first meeting, Caro led all players with 24 points.