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Douglas High boys basketball finishes strong in early season test

By Carter Eckl ceckl@recordcourier.com

As far as early season games go, Douglas High boys basketball couldn’t have asked for a much better litmus test to begin the year.

With Heritage (Littleton, Colorado) flying into town for the Carson Valley Classic, the Tigers got a taste of some out-of-state competition and played some valuable late-game minutes in a 71-63 win.

Douglas led by eight points at the half, but the Eagles reeled the Tigers back in early in the fourth quarter to make it a 52-50 contest with 5:47 left to go.

An early season, high-pressure situation didn’t phase the Tigers as Douglas held Heritage to just three field goals over the final 5:47 of the contest.

Out of an Eagle timeout, Chris Smalley drained two free throws and Dougie Hostler followed with a triple from the wing after a pump fake left his defender in the corner.

Cameron Swain assisted on another Smalley bucket before Swain sunk two free throws of his own to make it a 61-54 contest. Swain ended the night with 19 points after going 9-of-10 from the charity stripe and sinking several mid-range jumpers.

The Eagles continued to hang around, picking up occasional points at the free throw line, but the Tigers’ next two possessions essentially sealed the contest.

Douglas led 63-60 entering the final 90 seconds of play when Hostler drove through the lane and lofted a shot over the final defender for a bucket.  The senior guard ended the night with 15 points.

“He stepped up,” said Douglas head coach Corey Thacker. “He made a great decision right there, … cause they were used to us kicking it every time. He knocked down some big shots.”

After a Tiger defensive stop and coming out of a timeout, Swain set a pick and then released into the lane unguarded for another basket to give Douglas a 67-60 lead with 1:11 to go.

Free throws added the final points as the Tigers moved to 2-0 with the win.

“We need that experience. They have some big kids,” said Thacker. “Our kids didn’t freak out (late) and that was nice to see.”

Tiger takeaways

Douglas had plenty of positives to take away from the early season win, but a couple of things Thacker and company will look to clean up moving forward.

Heritage got several buckets on passes over-the-top of a pressing Tiger defense that resulted in easy layups.

Thacker wasn’t concerned with the easy buckets in transition, but Tiger foul trouble. Smalley fouled out of action late and Douglas allowed the Eagles to attempt 37 free throws in 32 minutes.

“The mental part of just stupid fouls,” said Thacker. “They went to the line 37 times and we can’t let that happen. We just have to be way smarter on defense.”

The Eagles ended the game 25-of-37 at the free throw line, unofficially.

Douglas’ offense also got a taste of handling a 2-3 zone in the half court, which caused a couple of issues at times.

Though Heritage’s zone caused sporadic problems, Thacker knows Douglas will continue to see defenses run zone throughout the year.

“We haven’t worked on it, but Reno is going to be zone the whole game,” said Thacker. “We found a spot to work on and I thought our kids got better against it as we went.”

UP NEXT: Douglas (2-0) will be back in action Tuesday against the Huskies of Reno (2-1) with tip-off set for 7 p.m.