While the Douglas boys' basketball team saw its season end in the state semifinals Thursday night against Bishop Gorman, the Tigers got to return to the court at halftime of the state finals to hoist a trophy of a different kind.
Douglas captured the NIAA/Jostens State 4A Academic Championship for the grades the 13 athletes on the roster posted during the first semester of the school year.
The team posted an unweighted GPA, meaning students with honors and AP courses aren't credited with having tougher schedules, of 3.56.
"I enjoy it when we earn a regional or state title in athletics," Douglas High principal Marty Swisher said. "But I am extremely proud when we receive an academic championship because solid academic achievement will influence every athlete's current and future families, the people whom they live and work with, and their future success."
Douglas coach Corey Thacker said the award was a tribute to the quality of kids in the program.
"This group, I can't say it enough, they were a joy to coach," he said. "All I have to worry about was coaching, strategy and motivation. The kids took care of everything off the court. We had at least five guys with 4.0 GPA. That's incredible."
The team GPA is made more impressive by the fact that nine of the team's players are multi-sport athletes and eight of those were playing sports during the fall. On top of that, the first month of basketball season is one of the busiest in all high school sports.
This year, Douglas had 15 games in 24 days to start off the year.
"Basketball is a lot, particularly during the first month," Thacker said. "We had seven guys who played football all the way through the last week of November and started up at practice with us the following day.
"We're going to tournaments, travelling. They were taking care of the classroom. That was something we didn't have to worry about with this group."
The NIAA says on its Web site that it considers the academic championship to be equal to the athletic championship because competitors are students first, then athletes.
"Mr. Swisher is really good with all the teams at the high school," Thacker said. "He emphasizes that the kids are student-athletes, not athletic students."
Douglas found out about the academic title just hours after the semifinal loss.
"We were notified Friday morning and I just sent out a mass text message to the kids that we were going back up for the championship game," Thacker said. "They were pretty excited about it. They were pretty proud of it and we got to watch the game too. It was a good time."
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.