Entrenched in the middle of a 13-game win streak, Douglas High boys basketball coach Corey Thacker paused after a 70-62 win over Galena in late January to note the academic nature of his team.
"These guys are so smart," he said. "We are able to run more stuff at them than we ever have before."
He wasn't kidding.
At halftime of the NIAA Division I State Championship Game tonight in Las Vegas, Thacker will accept the academic state title trophy on his team's behalf.
It marks the second year in a row Douglas has won the academic championship, this year with a cumulative grade point average of 3.59 - slightly higher than last year's 3.56. The NIAA evaluates the state academic championships based on unweighted GPAs, meaning that Advanced Placement or honors courses are not given any additional point values. The grade point averages are harvested from the final grades of the previous semester - making Douglas' title more impressive as semester finals came during a stretch in December while the Tigers were playing 12 games in 26 days.
Three of Douglas' 12 varsity players posted a 4.0 GPA. Team members this year included Sam Broersma, Austin Evans, James Herrick, Pat Johnson, Jaden Mustacchio, Hunter Myers, Michael Nolting, David Ogles, AJ Pfaffenberger, Tay Simms, Joe Syammach and Jaden Wass.
The team honor came in addition to Douglas' second consecutive Sierra League title and fourth-consecutive regional playoff appearance.
Douglas High principal Marty Swisher was particularly pleased with the team's accomplishment.
"This year's group of young men has been a joy to work with and fun to watch play," Swisher said. "They epitomize the 'student' in student-athlete. Not only do they work hard in their classes, but they help each other and expect that each member of the team will be successful academically.
"It is a nice benefit for our coaches to have no academic eligibility issues. Achieving the level of accomplishment this team had both on the court and in the classroom makes me extremely proud."
Thacker said the team's aptitude helped immensely in bringing along an inexperienced roster that included seven first-year varsity players.
"We knew from the start we had a lot of kids with a lot of basketball knowledge," Thacker said. "That really helped us out in a lot of in-game adjustments and even before a game just preparing for each different opponent.
"It was really nice to be able to do that throughout the season. We had a tough time at the beginning of the season and struggled through some games. We noticed as we started making adjustments, they were picking everything up and improving on it. The guys really were able to grasp a lot of concepts of why we were running something and they were able to adjust for each opponent."
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association website says the academic title is equal in prestige to the athletic state title, noting that all competitors are students first, then athletes.
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.