Even after watching an 8-point lead slip away at the end of the third quarter Tuesday night, the Douglas High boys basketball team didn’t lose sight of its confidence or composure.
Instead, the Tigers began the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run to take the lead for good on their way to an important 67-61 victory at home against Sierra League-leading Damonte Ranch.
Douglas (8-6, 4-3) has won its last two games and four of five. More importantly, the Tigers turned the tables after losing their two previous league games at home — 47-46 against Galena on Dec. 20 and 55-52 against Reno on Jan. 7. Damonte Ranch dropped to 4-2 in league (9-5 overall), tied for first-place with Galena and Carson in the league race.
How big was this win for the two-time defending Sierra League champion Tigers?
“A huge win for us,” said senior point guard A.J. Pfaffenberger. “This helps us get back up there in the rankings.”
Sam Broersma led the way as he scored 13 points, four of which came at the outset of the fourth period when Douglas broke a 45-45 tie. Earlier, Douglas had led 41-33 when Michael Johnson hit a 3-pointer, assisted by Trey Maurer, and 43-35 after Evans sank two of three free throws with 1:35 left in the third quarter. Damonte Ranch responded with a 10-2 run, ignited by Kyle Daugherty’s 3-pointer.
“It was about getting the momentum back and playing more of our game and our style,” Pfaffenberger said. “They brought it tonight with their fans and everything ... and they had the momentum (at the end of the third quarter).”
That momentum began to shift to start the fourth when Broersma scored on a tip-in. Moments later, the 6-foot-4 junior swatted the ball away on the defensive end. Austin Evans picked up the loose ball and triggered a fast break that led to Pat Johnson feeding Broersma for a layup.
“Our kids had the attitude,” coach Corey Thacker said of the fourth-quarter surge. “They didn’t get rattled.”
Pat Johnson then hit a jumper to push the lead to 51-45 with 7:00 left to play. The Mustangs never got closer than 5 points after that.
The Tigers helped their own cause by shooting 15-for-23 from the free throw line — 5-for-6 in the final 30 seconds to put the game on ice. Pfaffenberger’s two free throws with 30.8 seconds left increased the lead to 64-58. Two more free throws by Evans with 21.1 seconds on the clock effectively put the game away.
Pat Johnson and Evans added 12 points each for the Tigers, while Jaden Wass and Alex Tessmann contributed 8 each to a balanced attack. Wass converted a three-point play and then added two free throws to give Douglas a 58-47 lead with 4:57 left to play.
Broersman shot 6-for-8 from the field and also blocked two shots.
“Sam gave us a spark there,” Thacker said of Broersma. “Just that little extra effort getting up there on those tips, even if it didn’t go in, he kept the ball alive so someone else could make a play. We’re asking him to play more defense, and he has responded. He is quick and he’s long, he’s hard to get around.”
Kyle Daugherty led all scorers for the Mustangs with 29 points, 10 of which came in the final period.
“We’re excited,” Pfaffenberger said, looking ahead to the final month of the regular season. “We’ve got to keep building and not be satisfied where we’re at.”
After all, there is another game to play tonight at defending region tournament champion Hug. Even though the Hawks are winless in league, they played tough Tuesday in a 65-57 loss at Reno.
That’s why, though excited about the win over Damonte Ranch, Thacker merely smiled when he received congratulations for the win afterward.
“There’s still a ways to go,” Thacker said. “It’s going to be like this the rest of the year. You have to be ready to play every night because you always know it’s going to be a battle.”