Boys’ Basketball: Tigers lose heartbreaker at overtime buzzer
Douglas High School’s gymnasium has been a magical place over the past nearly two years.
20 games have come and gone since Douglas fell in the first round of the 2010 playoffs to upstart McQueen and 20 times the Tigers have emerged victorious.
The magic belonged to Spanish Springs Tuesday night, specifically reserve guard Connor Naisbitt, who launched a shot just inside the half court line as time expired in overtime and watched it sail cleanly through the net to deliver a 68-67 Cougar victory.
The swing of emotion was palpable as Douglas had just moments earlier all but won the game on a Hunter Myers put-back.
It initially appeared as though time had expired directly after the shot, but Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney managed to call a timeout. Officials put 1.5 seconds on the clock, setting the Cougars up underneath the Douglas basket.
“Whats ironic is last night at practice we put them all on the baseline and said you get three dribbles and then have to chuck it,” Penney said. “We ended practice on that and none of them were close. Then we gave them one more chance and Connor made it, just like that. So when I called that timeout we had to go to Connor.”
Following the timeout, Naisbitt received the pass along the sideline even with the free-throw line, bolted down the wing and managed to get off three dribbles before launching the game-winner. It was only his second shot of the night. The first was blocked in the first half by Douglas’ Hunter Myers.
“Basically what happened is last night at practice we ran the same drill and I made it,” Naisbitt said. “Then we did it here in a game situation. When I let it go, I knew it was going in. Before the game I was 1 for 1, so I had to make it and keep my percentage at 100.”
Douglas coach Corey Thacker had noted Spanish Springs as a potential sleeping giant earlier in the year.
“They’re a 5-6 team in league play,” Thacker said of the Cougars, who currently stand in fourth place in the High Desert League. “I don’t know how that happened, they are much better than their record shows.
“They do the little things right. They have a lot of length and that gave us fits inside.”
While Naisbitt’s last-second heroics delivered the win, it was the early part of the game that was most troublesome for the Tigers.
Spanish Springs had runs of 9-0 and 12-0 in the first quarter to take a 23-9 lead into the second. It cemented a disturbing trend for the Sierra-League-leading Tigers, who have now trailed after one quarter against five of the seven other current playoff teams. Two of those have been double-digit deficits and three have resulted in losses.
Conversely, the Tigers have been unflinchingly superior through the remainder of the same games, outscoring opponents 283-221 (an average of 47.3 to 36.8). In seven of those latter 23 periods (including two overtimes), the Douglas defense has limited its opponents to single digits.
“We just can’t put ourselves in that position,” Thacker said. “We’re beating a dead horse at this point. It’s something we have to figure out. We have to come prepared to play with more intensity.”
The Tigers bounced back after the slow start and appeared to be ready to go into the locker room for halftime on a 10-1 run trailing 31-23.
Spanish Springs’ Kenny Meyer, though, came up with the Cougar’s first miracle shot of the night, hitting a turnaround desperation shot while falling away at the sideline 5 feet above the arc as the buzzer sounded. The basket put Spanish Springs up 34-23.
Douglas chipped away at the lead in the third quarter, first running up a 7-0 stretch, then a 5-0 stretch and another 5-0 stretch punctuated by a Jake Tessmann 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the gap to 46-42.
Interestingly, four of the five quarters on the night ended with made buzzer-beaters.
Myers, who led all scorers with 25 points, opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to close the gap to 46-45.
After the teams traded baskets to set the score at 48-47, Tessmann knocked down another 3-pointer, one of four for him on the night, to give Douglas its first lead of the night at 50-48 with 4:54 remaining.
Spanish Springs tied it back up on a basket from Brian Smith, but Nick Maestretti put Douglas up 52-50 on a runner with 4:01 remaining.
Spanish Springs’ Brandon Delong then hit a 3-pointer to retake the lead at 53-52 with 3:47 left and Tessmann answered with yet another 3-pointer putting Douglas up 55-53 with 3:23 left.
The Cougars pieced together a 7-0 run over the next 2:29 to go up 60-55 with 50 seconds remaining.
Myers drew a foul on a made lay-up and converted the shot to bring Douglas back to with two, but Spanish Springs’ T.J. MacCauley hit the front end of a pair of free throws to set the score at 61-58.
It was Myers again on Douglas’ next trip down the floor, hitting a 3-pointer with 21.3 seconds left to knot the score at 61.
Douglas forced a turnover at the other end and played the final shot, but the Cougars’ Smith came up with a block, one of several for him on the nigh, as time expired to send the game into overtime.
Myers and Connor Hughes scored baskets on Douglas’ first two possessions of the extra period to give the Tigers what appeared to be a comfortable 65-61 lead.
It was Delong, again, though, who hit a runner with 1:36 left and then made a pair of free throws with 1:01 left to re-tie the game at 65..
“Delong gets them back with they are down two in the fourth and then down four in overtime,” Thacker said. “He just hit some big-time shots tonight.”
Douglas played for the final shot from there, running the final 57 seconds off the clock before Maestretti’s runner fell short, falling into Myer’s hands. Myers scored on the put back, setting the stage for the game-winner from Naisbitt.
“It was a playoff atmosphere all the through, and that was good experience,” Thacker said. “There were just things that we need to work on. We didn’t pass the ball particularly well tonight.
“We got the looks we wanted at the end. We have good possessions, both at the end of regulation and the end of overtime. There’s not much we could have done differently there. We got the shots we wanted.”
Tessmann finished with 14 points for the Tigers, Trevor Shaffer had nine, Maestretti had five, Hughes and James Herrick each finished with four, Joe Syammach and Austin Evans each had two and Michael Nolting and Nate VonAhsen each had one in the loss.
Spanish Springs got 16 points from Smith, 14 from Delong, 13 from Meyer and 11 from Austin Damoth.
Douglas next travels to Carson on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. tip.