Somewhere toward the beginning of the fourth quarter Wednesday night, the Douglas boys' basketball team's matchup against Reed turned from a run-of-the-mill season-opener to a playoff atmosphere.
The Tigers put together an improbable 11-point comeback to tie the score late against the Raiders but fell just short as Reed's Cory Whitaker sank a free throw with two seconds left on the clock to clinch a 50-49 win in Minden.
After outscoring the Tigers 22-8 in the third quarter, it appeared that Reed was ready to run away with the game.
Douglas had different plans.
"We talked about having to get after it, get some defensive pressure on them," Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. "We were lagging a little bit on them and they were making us pay."
Douglas junior James McLaughlin opened the fourth quarter with a put-back to close the score to 46-36 in favor of Reed. Whitaker answered with a 3-pointer " his fifth of the game " with 6:26 remaining to put the Raiders up by 11 at 49-38.
That would end up being Reed's last field goal of the game, and it very nearly ended up being their last points of the game.
"We got the defense to where we wanted it to be late in the game, but it took us a while to get there," Thacker said. "That's something we are going to have to fix.
"We have to keep that intensity going all the time."
Douglas put on a half-court trap defense that launched an 11-0 run over the next 6 minutes and 24 seconds before Whitaker was fouled on a 3-point shot that was headed for a miss.
Whitaker made his first shot, the eventual game-winner, but missed the second two. Douglas' David Laird rebounded the ball and took a desperation shot from inside the Reed key that bounced off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
"They (Reed) are a quality team," Thacker said. "They push the ball up the court, they can shoot it. They appear to have it all " a point guard that can handle the ball and get to the rim, a couple of guys that are dangerous from outside and a good post inside.
"We ran with them though."
Reed struggled getting anything going inside, making only five field goals from inside the arc throughout the game but exposed Douglas on the perimeter, sinking 12 3-pointers.
Douglas, on the other hand, got 21 points out of senior post Jeff Nady, while James McLaughlin scored eight, David Laird scored seven and Ross Bertelone and CJ Marcotte each had five.
"We know we can go to Jeff," Thacker said. "That'll be our thing. Once we get it to him, we have to be able to rotate off him and get some cuts, get some shots off of that.
"Offensively, I think we were standing around a little bit."
The game marked the first big matchup in the Northern 4A this year, with Reed and Douglas being two of the top-rated teams coming into the season.
Reed was impressive with Whitaker (18 points), point guard Omarri Williams (13 points) and forwards Zack Wood and Nick Dixon (nine points each).
"Coach (Paul) Gray brought a great team in and they did a good job," Thacker said. "One thing we were proud of is that this is a team that scored 84 and 78 points in their first two games. We held them to 50.
"It could have been less if we could have closed things up on the perimeter. We still have to stick to ourselves and stick to being intense on defense."
Douglas took an early 9-3 lead through the first quarter, getting five points from Nady early on while Reed was limited to a Whitaker 3-pointer in the first two minutes.
Nady and Laird each scored to open the second quarter, opening up a 13-3 lead for the Tigers but then Reed put a nasty full-court press on and quickly rattled off a 14-0 run highlighted by two 3-pointers apiece from Williams and Wood.
Douglas came back and finished the half on a 6-2 run to take a 26-24 lead into halftime.
Reed struggled from the foul line in the first half, going 0-for-6 at the stripe while Douglas converted 7-of-8.
The Raiders came out of the locker room pushing and went on a 17-1 run through the final four minutes of the quarter to take a 46-34 lead into the fourth.
After Whitaker's 3-pointer early in the fourth, Nady went on a personal 8-0 run over the next three minutes to close Douglas to withing five at 49-44.
Nady tied the score up with a little less than 40 seconds left in the game but Reed came up with a turnover at the 33-second mark and took a timeout.
The Raiders played for the final shot and set Whitaker up low on the baseline, where he got off an errant shot under double-coverage but was fouled on his way down.
In the second half, it was Douglas that struggled from the line, converting only one of seven free throws in the finals three minutes of the game.
Douglas (0-1) next hosts Fallon Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Carson Valley Classic.