Boys' Basketball: Reno topples Douglas for first place in Sierra League

For nearly three quarters Friday night, the Douglas-Reno boys' basketball game in Minden was every bit the battle of Sierra League heavyweights it'd been hyped up as.


Then Reno's Austin Morgan took over.


Morgan put together a personal 7-0 run with two minutes remaining in the third and his teammates extended that into an 18-0 run two minutes into the fourth to send Reno on its way to a dominating 60-41 win over the Tigers.


"They just put together a little run and they did a good job of taking advantage of our turnovers," Douglas coach Corey Thacker said.


The lead changed hands nine times and neither team was able to build a cushion of more than five points before Morgan's run. It became apparent that anything like what the Huskies were able to put together late in the third would be an insurmountable obstacle


"Our offense got a little stagnant in there and we were standing around a lot more than we wanted to do," Thacker said. "They just took advantage of our mistakes."


Douglas' David Laird sank a pair of free throws with 2:13 left in the third to give the Tigers a 33-32 lead. For the next four minutes of the game, however, it was all Reno.


Off Laird's free throw, Morgan drove through traffic, drew the contact down low and slipped a lay-up around the rim before heading to the line.


He converted the 3-point play and then skated back down the floor after a Tiger turnover for a pull-up jumper just inside the key. He added one more basket to complete the 7-0 run in just under one minute.


Reno's Zack Smith scored to put Reno up 41-33, and Douglas again turned the ball over as it was attempting to play for the last shot of the quarter.


Duke-bound senior Olek Czyz got out in front of the play, caught the lob pass and launched from just inside the free-throw with a remarkable 360-degree slam dunk at the buzzer.


The play essentially put the nail in the coffin for the Tigers.


"It's a game where you know both teams are going to make some runs," Thacker said. "But all of the sudden the kids start looking up at the scoreboard and it starts getting to them."


Reno extended its lead to 50-33 with a Czyz 3-pointer, a basket from Zack Sanford and a layup from Morgan.


Douglas wouldn't get any closer.


Morgan ended with a game-high 20 points, while Czyz had 18, but the real difference was Morgan's ability to run the floor, which took the Tigers out of its normal trapping defense.


"He's a tough kid," Thacker said of Morgan. "He's very knowledgeable and he's been playing varsity since he was a freshman. He has some ownership over that team and he's going to make sure he controls the game."


Czyz was impressive with his aerial acrobatics, but for the most part he was kept off the scoreboard when Reno wasn't in transition. That was due in large part to the defensive efforts of Douglas' David Laird.


"Dave is our defensive guy," Thacker said. "He can go out on that wing and play inside too. He was going to give us everything he has and he did a great job on Czyz. Even when Czyz got his points in the second half, it wasn't against David. Most of those game in transition, off of turnovers."


Laird had a solid game offensively as well, scoring 12 points for the Tigers while junior James McLaughlin led the team with 14.


Reno was able to keep the wraps on Tiger center Jeff Nady, who was limited to a season-low four points.


"They got after it and limited what Jeff could do," Thacker said. "They're just a big tall team. They are physical. This was the first team we've seen this year that really was all physical all the time."


Reno built a 13-10 lead through the first quarter, but Douglas came out firing in the second.


McLaughlin hit an acrobatic scoop shot as he cut through traffic to bring the Tigers within one at 13-12.


After a basket from Reno's Calvin Hill, Laird, McLaughlin, Ross Bertolone and Kevin Emm scored on consecutive trips down the floor to complete a 10-2 run and give the Tigers a 20-15 lead.


Reno came back, through, with a basket from Sanford, a 3-pointer from Czyz and a basket and foul shot from Morgan.


Laird closed the gap to 23-22 with 49 seconds left with a pair of free throws and the score stayed there as the teams headed into the locker rooms.


"In the first half, we were able to get them to play in the half court more, which was our best shot," Thacker said. "We wanted to make sure we could get back and stop them, keep them in those half court sets. I thought we did well there. We only gave up three offensive rebounds in the first half and we were getting stops."



Reno improved to 4-0 in league play while Douglas dropped to 4-1. The two teams will meet again in the regular season finale, a game that may very well decide the league championship. In Northern 4A play, the winner in the second go-around on the schedule gets the first advantage in tiebreakers.


"We know Reno will take care of their side," Thacker said. "We need to take care of ours. That last game could set up to be very important.


"We just can't let one loss turn into two. We have to be ready to play on the road for South Tahoe (Saturday)."

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