Sparked by its season-best first quarter offensive production Tuesday night, the Douglas High girls basketball team surged out front early and went on to a 60-39 Sierra League victory against Damonte Ranch.
Douglas (12-6 overall, 5-2 league) led 21-14 after that opening period then came back after halftime and extended their lead to 52-26 in the final minute of the third.
In the process, the Tigers ended a two-game losing streak and moved past Damonte Ranch into second-place in the Sierra League standings.
“We don’t say this often, but we told the kids this was a must win if we wanted to stay in there with Manogue, Damonte and Carson,” coach Werner Christen said. “Shep (Damonte Ranch coach Ed Shepard) has a very good team. They’re real athletic and quick, their bigs are good and their guards are good.”
Leonna Mortimer led Douglas offensively with 16 points, eight of which came in the third quarter. Maddy Lowe also scored 14 and Katie McCullough 12 for the Tigers. McCullough scored 8 in the second quarter.
Kelly Sonnemann and Lowe connected on 3-pointers as the Tigers scored 21 points in the opening period — a season high.
“We played well offensively in the first quarter,” Christen said. “Our spacing was really good, they ran the court well, we shot the ball well and we made the extra pass.”
The Tigers extended their lead to double digits with 5:27 to go in the second quarter when McKenna Kynett drove the baseline and dished to Mortimer for a layup to make it 28-18. Later, Mortimer fed McCullough on a give-and-go, Jessie Jim scored on a left-hand drive and McCullough sank a pair of free throws as Douglas took a 38-24 advantage to the locker room at the intermission.
While pleased with the way the Tigers played offensively in the first quarter, Christen was even more enthused about the team’s defensive effort in the third when the Tigers ran off a 14-7 advantage. The numbers are misleading, too, because the Mustangs went scoreless in the opening six minutes, then five of the seven points came in the final 12 seconds on a 3-pointer and breakaway layup at the buzzer.
“That was probably our best defensive quarter of the season, until the last 15 seconds,” Christen said. “We challenged them (at halftime) to get five stops; they did that and then some.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers scored 10 unanswered points and extended their lead to 48-24 with 2:45 left in the quarter when Sonnemann set up on the left side of the arc behind a screen set by Jim and fired in a 3-pointer.
Taylor Nuttall led all scorers for Damonte Ranch with 21 points, 7 of which came in the first quarter. The Mustangs, however, only scored 15 points in the second half.
The defensive performance was especially encouraging since the Tigers were coming off a 64-51 loss last Friday at Bishop Manogue, a game in which Hannah Santos hit seven 3-pointers for 23 points. Then again, Christen was encouraged by the all-around performance against Damonte Ranch.
“This was a great team win for us,” he said.