Boys’ Basketball: Tigers set for state appearance |

Boys’ Basketball: Tigers set for state appearance

by Joey Crandall

It doesn’t always work out this way.

The Douglas boys’ basketball team has advanced to the regional title game four times in the last six years.

Even in the bitter sting of defeat at the hand of the Hug Hawks on Saturday, there remained a beam of hope in the Tiger locker room.

The simple message: It’s not over.

Douglas coach Corey Thacker had a stream of alumni coming through to speak to his team through the regional tournament last week. He had Chris Downs, the Tigers’ starting point guard in 2010-11 now playing for Butte College, address this year’s group following Saturday’s loss.

“He just talked about how, yeah this isn’t the way we wanted this to go, but we still have another shot,” Thacker said. “With the tournament rotating between Reno and Las Vegas, two teams from the north don’t always get to go. But we do this year.

“Chris just talked about how he, and any of last year’s seniors who lost in the regional final, would have loved to keep playing.”

Douglas (20-10) gets to continue its season for at least one more game Thursday afternoon against Bishop Gorman at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno at 4:40 p.m.

Gorman (26-4) is ranked eighth in the country by National Guard and 17th in the country by the USA Today. The Gaels will be the second nationally-ranked team the Tigers have seen this year (Douglas lost to Long Beach Poly, currently ranked 14th, 57-41 on Dec. 16).

“It’s not over for us,” Thacker said. “We have a great opportunity. Only four teams are still playing this week and we are one of them. Our spring, our summer games, our preseason schedule, I think it sets us up. We’ve faced nationally-ranked teams and we’ve seen nationally-ranked players.

“At the end of the day, it’s still basketball, no matter how you look at it. You go out and play your game.

“It doesn’t matter who you play. You lay it on the line and see where the cards fall.”

History, it would seem, backs that up.

Gorman has been among the top 10 or 20 teams in the country for the last 10 years, but has won only three state titles during that stretch — 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Last year, Reno’s Bishop Manogue shocked the Gaels 45-43 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas in the state semifinals.

But this year’s Gorman squad is strong and boasts the top-ranked small forward in the country in senior Shabazz Muhammed (6-6, 215). Muhammed is averaging 29.1 points per game on the year.

The Gaels beat Palo Verde 102-83 on Saturday to win the 4A Sunset region title.

Gorman also has six players checking in at 6 feet, 7 inches or taller, most notably Ben Carter (6-8, 220) and Rosco Allen (2-9, 205).

Douglas counters with its own athletic lineup, including the state’s top-rated junior Hunter Myers (15.8 ppg), Nick Maestretti – the defending state pole vault champion, and point guard Connor Hughes, who lit a fuse over the latter part of the season and averaged 13.6 points per game over the team’s past eight contests.

This will be Douglas’ third appearance in the state tournament since moving to the large-school classification in 1979-80. The last appearance came in 2008 when the Tigers lost to Cheyenne 93-55. That Cheyenne squad was led by Elijah Johnson, who is averaging 8.6 points for the University of Kansas this year.