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Douglas Boys trying to regroup fast

Donnie Nelson

These are trying times for coach Aubrey McCreary and the Douglas varsity boys basketball team.

The Tigers struggled again offensively in a 64-35 lost to Orem, Utah, the No. 4-ranked large-school team in its state, Friday at Galena, but rebounded for a tough 63-57 victory Saturday at Elko.

Douglas takes a 3-3 preseason record into the Nugget Rail City Classic this weekend. It will face Lassen, Calif. in a first-round game of pool play at 4:15 p.m. Friday.

“We can only go up,” Douglas coach Aubrey McCreary said after the Orem game. “The last (three) outings we’ve hit rock bottom. It’s going to be a real character check.”

Jim Coyne scored 19 points and Matt Thomas added 18 Saturday as the Tigers came from behind to beat Elko. It was a good win for a team which had to travel a long distance one night after a demoralizing defeat.

The Tigers trailed by four points going into the final quarter, but hit several key free throws down the stretch to hold off the Indians. Douglas was 25-of-34 from the free throw line.

Senior Andy Chichester chipped in with 11 points and junior John Dunbar added 10 for Douglas, which outscored Elko 26-15 in the final quarter.

To put Friday’s game in perspective, Douglas was facing a tall, talented and deep Orem team. That group of Tigers is considered a one of the favorites to win Utah’s Class 5A title, especially since it’s playing without its star center, who is out one month with an injury.

Saturday’s game was another matter. Douglas beat Lowry and Elko on Dec. 5 and 6, respectively, but has since lost to those teams in rematches. Lowry is in Division I of the Class 4A Northern Zone, but Elko is in Division II and thus a team Douglas will have to battle with for a playoff spot.

Jim Coyne scored 19 points and Matt Thomas added 18 as the Douglas High boys basketball team came from behind Saturday for a 63-57 road win over Elko.

The Tigers trailed by four points going into the final quarter, but hit several key free throws down the stretch to hold off the Indians. Douglas was 25-of-34 from the free throw line.

Senior Andy Chichester chipped in with 11 points and junior John Dunbar added 10 for Douglas, which outscored Elko 26-15 in the final quarter.

“It was a total team effort,” Douglas assistant coach Keith Lewis said.

However, the Tigers need to figure a few things out before they can start thinking about the regular season and the playoffs. And, they need to figure them out in a hurry. The regular season begins Jan. 6.

Where the offense is going to come from? Jim Coyne scored 18 points, but nobody else made more than one field goal.

The Defense is still playing OK, but it’s not generating anything in terms of easy baskets out of the transition game.

Douglas got off to a good start Friday. John Dunbar came up with a steal in the half-court defense on Orem’s first possession, and Jim Coyne hit a short jumper from the right baseline off a pass from Dunbar in the half-court offense on Douglas’ first possession. But, that 40-second stretch was about as good as it got for the Tigers. It all fell apart after that.

Immediately after Coyne’s opening basket, Orem’s Spencer Agney got a layup in transition. That would be the first of six field goals for Orem in the quarter. Douglas wouldn’t get another.

Coyne made 1-of-2 free throws with 5:11 left in the quarter to cut Orem’s lead to 6-3, but Douglas wouldn’t even get another foul shot the rest of the quarter. It committed 10 turnovers, four of them coming against a full-court man-to-man press, and missed three attempts from the floor in the final five minutes. Orem’s Sam Sorenson came up with three of the six steals that didn’t come courtesy of the full-court press and also drew an offensive foul.

Douglas made three field goals in the second quarter, including a three-pointer by Adam Bill from the left wing off a pass from Bruce Jacobsen that cut the lead to 27-9 with three minutes left in the half, but only 4-of-8 attempts from the foul line.

To accentuate the positives, Douglas limited Orem’s big front line to just one offensive rebound in both the second and third quarters and turned the ball over just two times in the second quarter. The Tigers got a chance to play against a talented pressing team and a team able to execute its offense.

Still, McCreary didn’t know what his team really got out of the learning experience.

“We’re not working as a unit,” McCreary said. “We’re not executing and I don’t know why. We work hard in practice, but when we get on the floor its like a foreign game. We’ve got to get better.

“We’re having a hard time of passing and catching the ball. Our basketball sense is very poor. We’re really inexperienced, and that’s obvious,” McCreary added.

Don’t worry. McCreary and the Tigers won’t even consider throwing in the towel. The defense is working well and that’s a great place to start. As soon as the Tigers figure who there go-to guys are in the half-court offense, recognize who to get the ball to when and where in the transition game, and pick up a few wins to get the confidence up, they may yet still be a contender for a playoff spot.

Douglas was 4-for-17 from the field, including 1-for-7 from three-point range, and 5-for-10 from the line in the first half. It got a little better in the second half.

Douglas held Orem to a 11-for-25 performance from the field in the first half.

Coyne, who had 10 points in the third quarter, may eventually emerge as the go-to guy.

“Jim stepped up and made some things happen,” McCreary said. “He made great strides as an individual. I though he played very well (Friday).”

The Tigers held Orem to a 5-for-13 shooting performance from the floor in the third quarter and a 21-for-50 performance for the game. They also outrebounded Orem 10-3 in the third quarter and 35-34 for the game.

What else does Douglas need to work on? Shooting and ball handling.

The Tigers finished just 10-for-19 from the foul line and made just 1-of-4 front ends of one-and-ones. They also only recorded five assists – nobody having more than one – and gave up 14 steals.

Things will further improve when the Tigers don’t give up (because of 25 turnovers) 13 more shots from the field and 10 more attempts from the foul line.