R-C Sports Notebook: This year's seniors were 'once in a lifetime'

Once in a lifetime.

It's not a phrase anyone should throw around lightly.

But seeing as how this year's Douglas Tigers were the first to put together a 20-plus win season since the year before I was born, it seemed appropriate.

For those who didn't have the pleasure of watching a boys' basketball game this season, consider yourselves to have lost out on something special.

This squad was the type we haven't seen around here in quite some time.

Standing outside the Douglas locker room after the Tigers' heartbreaking loss to Galena in the regional championship game at Spanish Springs, coach Rob Streeter had to take a moment to reflect on how far this group had come.

"This was a dream," he said. "Last year, we were up in the bleachers watching Reno win the title. We talked about how this was somewhere we wanted to be.

"It's no longer a dream. We're here."

Indeed, the Tigers' year-long metamorphosis was distinctive.

Douglas went from losing four of its last five games last season and missing out on the playoffs to becoming a legitimate contender for the regional title in a matter of months.

The Tigers raised plenty of eyebrows early in the offseason, becoming the first Northern Nevada team to win the prestigious Reno Memorial Weekend Tournament in more than five years in May.

From there, Douglas ran off a series of impressive offseason tournaments, advancing to the finals of every competition it went to.

Rolling into the season, the Tigers ran off six straight wins, gave nationally-ranked No. 2 Artesia a run after trailing by seven at halftime, and had its longest winning-streak in quite some time (eight games) through the middle of the season.

Then there was the dream run through the playoffs, thumping Reed on the road to avenge a first-round playoff loss two years ago and ambushing defending state champion Reno with a 25-0 run to open the game.

And through the title game Douglas looked every bit the Cinderella, leading virtually throughout before the Grizzlies slipped in during the last minute and stole the victory, and the trip to state away.

This group had all the makings of a title team. Unparalleled height, timely outside shooting and great defense.

And at the center of it all was a core of six seniors that Douglas fans got plenty familiar with over the last four years.

What happens in the next few years remains to be seen, but it is definite that this year's seniors will be remembered for raising the bar for this program to a new level.

"Of course, I'm very disappointed to see it end this way for all the seniors," Streeter said. "It's tough to take right now, but they can walk proud. In a couple of days they'll be able to see what they accomplished. A 23-win season, a playoff win, the regional title game. They really took us to a new level."

Leading the group was Keith Olson, the school's first Division I signee in more than 20 years.

Olson has been a unique talent from the time he was called up to varsity as a freshman but his development over the last year has been striking.

At 6-10, he never had a problem scoring, but his ability to run the floor and his improvement on defense have left his college career looking quite well for the next four or five years.

It's perhaps his leadership that stuck out the most over the last half of the season. The unspoken secret around the north was that he was playing on a stress fracture in his foot through the last two months of the season.

Doctors told him the injury would not get worse, but that it would be exceptionally painful.

Even so, he averaged 17.7 points through nine games on the hobbled foot and still managed to lead the region in rebounding at about 13.5 boards per game.

Olson was joined as a sophomore by five of his classmates, called up by then coach Keith Lewis.

It was a move that Lewis said at the time was to prepare the program for the future, and it appears to have paid off quite well.

Leading the call-ups was Mike Gransbery, who became one of Douglas' best outside shooters in quite some time, hitting 69 3-pointers this season alone. He was another Tiger to play through pain late in the year as he re-injured a broken toe he'd suffered during soccer season. Still, he scored 12, 20 and 16 points in the three playoff contests.

Nate Whalin began his career with the Tigers as a sophomore geared more toward slashing on the offensive end, but ended it this season as one of the best pure defenders in the north.

He regularly drew the top assignment defensively and did quite a number on Hug's Armon Johnson earlier in the year.

At 6-8, Joe Nady saw limited time as a sophomore, but improved consistently over the last two season. This year saw a general rebirth as a player as he made vast strides on defense and got a strong grasp on the offensive end.

He made the transition from reserve player to one of the Tigers' top players off the bench this season. His presence was perhaps the most valuable to Douglas' depth as there wasn't much drop off when Olson left the floor. He averaged 5.5 points per game, but excelled on the boards and on the defensive end.

Jared Trowbridge was one of the Tigers' more unsung player this year, coming in to spell Gransbery at the point. He was a superb change-of-pace player, dishing out assists and penetrating opposing defenses.

He sparked the Tigers early on in wins over South Tahoe and Wooster in January and started the last two games of the year with Gransbery out, scoring seven points in each game.

Then there was Brandon Bernard. At 5-9, he joined the class as a junior. Literally all heart and no height, his personal 7-0 outburst against Soquel, Calif., in the second quarter of the season-opener helped change the tone of the game from contest into blowout.

There truly was something special going on in the gym at Douglas this winter. Those who witnessed it will always recall it fondly and the classic title game will become the stuff of legend.

But with two returning starters and four of their top seven scorers coming back, it leaves reason to think that another once in a lifetime might not be that far away.

This won't be the last we see of Whalin this year. He figures to be a big part of the Douglas baseball team this spring, especially with slugger Ryan Laing having moved out of the area.

Whalin, the school's lone returning All-League first-teamer, can hit and pitch and will figure into the infield or outfield.

He will join a host of returning players for the Tigers, who also saw their season end against Galena last year, in the regional semifinals.

Whalin will be joined by second-team all-league infielders Ryan Pruitt and Phil Mannelly, sophomore pitcher Tyler May, infielder Jordan Hadlock and utilityman Niko Saladis.

Willie Morgan will also return to the team after missing the bulk of last season with a shoulder injury.

The biggest question mark will be the vacancy behind the plate.

With Whalin and May, Douglas should be returning regular starters to its pitching rotation for the first time in three years while Whalin and Pruitt may be among the candidates to shift in behind the plate.

In softball, the Tigers will return starters at all but two spots in the field. The Tigers qualified for the regional playoffs last year and beat Manogue before bowing out to Reed.

Keith Olson, sr., boys' basketball and Mike Gransbery, sr., boys' basketball. The two were instrumental in Douglas' run to the regional title game and will be greatly missed next season with their inside/outside presence.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment