Goins, Davis and Moore make most of last shot

They were AAU teammates in Ohio who went their separate ways after high school. Many trials and tribulations later, Devon Moore, A.J. Davis and Rayshawn Goins were reunited at a most unlikely location, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Wednesday when the trio helped deliver the school its first NCAA tournament victory in 30 years, the seniors were back in their home state. The Dukes' 68-55 victory over LIU-Brooklyn, before family and friends in Dayton, was an appropriate career highlight.

It also earned them an extended stay. Friday afternoon, when No. 16 James Madison challenges No. 1 Indiana, Moore, Davis and Goins will be on the biggest stage of their career, in a gym where all three played as kids.

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No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 16 James Madison
When » Friday, 4:10 p.m.
Where » UD Arena, Dayton, Ohio

Thursday as they spoke to reporters from a dais, Moore, Davis and Goins used the words "blessed" and "blessing" a combined 10 times. Little wonder. There was never any indication that they were capable of such heroics. It's a long way from a 30-point opening game loss to UCLA and a 1-5 start in November. The Dukes' current five-game winning streak is their longest in two seasons.

"Words can't explain the journey," Goins told reporters Thursday. "We had our bumps. At the beginning of the season, we started off, and everybody counts us off. That's the great thing about March. It's not how you start, it's how you finish."

Out of high school, Moore went to James Madison, Davis went to Wyoming and Goins stayed in Ohio to play junior college ball.

"We knew each other for years," Goins said. "No one expected us to be at the same school."

But Moore's happiness in five seasons at James Madison, where he has been a starter since his freshman year, eventually attracted the other two.

All have had their challenges in Harrisonburg. Moore suffered a knee injury his sophomore year and redshirted. He missed part of his junior season because of poor grades. This year he often travelled home to Columbus to visit his mother, Carolyn, who is hospitalized with cancer.

Goins has battled weight problems and sat out last year after shoulder surgery. Then last weekend, Goins was arrested for obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct, resulting in his suspension for the first half of Wednesday's game.

The 25-year-old Davis, who spent a year in prep school and two at Wyoming before transferring, has constantly battled coach Matt Brady. Davis is clearly the most physically gifted of the Dukes but in four games this year, Brady was so exasperated that he played Davis less than eight minutes. Then, suddenly, Davis decided to buy in.

"This young guy's had one of the most remarkable turnarounds for a person, invested in the team that I've ever seen," Brady said. "What he did with his decision to be part of something bigger than himself is the most unique thing in my years of coaching."

Davis has been brilliant over his last nine games, averaging 21.5 points 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals and hitting 56.8 percent of his shots and 41.7 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Each of the Ohioans brings something different. Elegantly built at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Davis is a long-range bomber, alley-oop finisher, and athletic mayhem-creator on defense. Downright skinny at 6-4 and 175, Moore (11.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) is a savvy point guard who controls tempo and sees the floor. The 6-6, 265-pound Goins is an immovable force inside with great hands, surprisingly quick feet and range to 15 feet.

With their complementary skills, checkered careers, and disparate paths, they make a perfectly imperfect trio, finally making the most of their last chance.

"There's a lot of life lessons in college athletics, and it's not always on the court," Brady said. "You have to go through adversity to achieve some things. This team has found it out."