Basketball: Tigers ‘win’ Sierra League crown
Even after the Carson boys’ basketball team upset Galena 49-40 Thursday night, handing Douglas its first league title in 15 years, the Tigers went in to Friday night’s regular season finale feeling they still needed to show some burden of proof.
“We wanted to make sure we got a win to earn it (the league title),” Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. “Galena losing last night clinched it mathematically, but we wanted to wrap it up ourselves and take care of it.”
Douglas opened up a big lead early and then held off a late run from Damonte Ranch to pick up a 68-54 win as the Tigers celebrated both Senior Night and homecoming, along with the league championship.
The Tigers will host High Desert League No. 4 seed McQueen Wednesday in Minden in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a great honor,” said Douglas senior point guard Connor Hughes, who scored a team-high 21 points and was 4 years old running around the Douglas gym the last time the Tigers won its division. “My dad was coaching the last time they won it (the league) and to do it again my last year here is just a neat feeling.”
Hughes echoed Thacker’s sentiments about wanting to win the league title on the floor.
“We needed some closure after the Galena game on Tuesday (a 59-58 loss),” Hughes said. “We wanted to go into the playoffs the right way. We didn’t feel like we’d won anything yet.”
Douglas set about leaving little doubt early on, exploding out to a 9-0 lead over the first two minutes and 30 seconds. Hughes got things going with a 3-pointer, Trevor Shaffer and Jake Tessmann each added two-point baskets and then Hughes added a lay-up, forcing an early Damonte time out.
Douglas pushed its lead to 22-10 by the end of the quarter and appeared ready to cruise.
The Tigers rode a comfortable double-digit cushion for much of the game before Damonte put together a quiet 8-0 run to start the fourth, cutting the score to 48-40 with 5:17 remaining.
“We have to make sure we execute down the stretch,” Thacker said. “That was something that stuck out tonight. That’ll be huge in the playoffs against any of the remaining teams.
“We have to make sure we’re getting good possessions.”
Douglas again stretched the lead out to 12 at 54-42, but Damonte’s Jeff Turk, who finished with a game-high 25 points, hit a 3-pointer followed by a 15-footer to close the gap to seven at 54-47.
Nate VonAhsen got Douglas going again, though, with a driving lay-up and Hughes completed his scoring on the night with a lay-up and a free throw, working the score to 59-49 with 1:37 left.
The Tigers hit 9-of-10 free throws in the final minute to close out the win.
“We just wanted to go out on top and have a good ending to the regular season,” Hughes said. “Now we focus on the playoffs.”
Hunter Myers had 16 points for Douglas, Trevor Shaffer added eight, Tessmann had six, VonAhsen and Matt Wylie had four and Nick Maestretti and Austin Evans each had three.
“We’ve had playoff atmospheres in six or seven games already this year,” Thacker said. “It’s good experience. Now we need to put that to work.”
Douglas closed out its regular season with a solid 45-28 win over Damonte Ranch and will turn its attention to its first playoff appearance since 2009 next week.
The Tigers travel to High Desert League champion Reed High School Tuesday for a 7 p.m. game.
“We’re happy to be back,” Douglas coach Werner Christen said. “At the beginning of the year, this was our goal. We have a big test ahead of us. But we’ll be relaxed and we’ll just play our game.
“We need to make some shots. If we can do that, who knows?”
Against Damonte, Douglas turned in one of its best defensive performances of the year, holding the Mustangs to single-digits in each quarter and just four points in the second.
“We did a good job there,” Christen said. “Their top player had 30 points Tuesday night. We held her to eight tonight. We challenged the kids with her heading in and they shut her down. That was big.”
Erica Macias, Ebony Cleveland, Cora Moody, Diana Regalado and Tia Lyons (3-pointer) all came up with big baskets in the first quarter to launch the Tigers on a 14-8 run.
Senior Amanda Wartgow also connected from outside the arc in the game and Erika Munoz capped a 10-2 run in the fourth that essentially put the game away for good.
“We knew we’d have to rebuild this thing and this group has put us ahead of schedule,” Christen said. “We’re just glad to get another week with them at least.”