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Douglas trips South Tahoe

by Chuck Smock

The Douglas Tigers celebrated two milestones Tuesday night after their 57-51 win over South Tahoe.

The victory was the first ever for a Douglas boys’ team during league play in the Vikings’ gym. More importantly, the win secured a spot in the upcoming Region playoff tournament for the Tigers.

And the party was three years in the making for third-year head coach Keith Lewis and senior Seth Lee, who was a sophomore on Lewis’ first varsity squad.

“Seth and I have been in this together for three years and the first two years we didn’t do what we wanted to do,” Lewis said. “At least we’re going to get to experience the zone (playoffs), but I don’t think anyone in this locker room is satisfied with just getting there. We realize, by the way we’re playing, that we have a legitimate opportunity to go make some noise. I think they believe in themselves. If we can continue to improve and continue to play hard, then I think we’re going to do some things. Hopefully, that lands us in (the state tournament at) Lawlor (Events Center) in two weeks.”

It was fitting that Lee and fellow seniors Rob Honer and Jared Kenison all played huge roles in the win over the Vikings.

Lee scored a game-high 26 points, including making 11 of 12 free throws, and also led the Tigers with five steals and six rebounds

Honer scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds.

Kenison finished with six points and three steals. He did a nice job defensively on Tahoe senior Chris Ortiz, who scored just seven points – all in the first half. Ortiz scored a game-high 27 points in the Vikings’ victory over the Tigers on Jan. 19.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Douglas’ victory over South Tahoe is the fact that the Tigers weren’t all that impressive, particularly in the first half.

“I think we came out a little flat,” Lee said. “There were a lot of delays and we were sitting around waiting for the (girls’ varsity) game to get over, then they (the Vikings) had Senior Night. Maybe that was the reason, but we can’t let that happen.”

The Tigers struggled on defensive early in the game, allowing the Vikings to drive to the basket four times in the first four minutes.

South Tahoe committed nine turnovers -only four of which were forced -in the second quarter alone, but still managed to take a four-point lead into the locker room at the break, thanks in part to a four-for-10 shooting performance from the floor by the Tigers.

The key for Douglas was not letting South Tahoe take advantage of its slow start.

After what must have been a fairly animated halftime speech by Lewis, the Tigers returned to the court with playoff intensity in the second half.

The Tigers limited the Vikings to six points in the third quarter. Douglas managed to turn up the interior defensive pressure while maintaining a presence on the perimeter. South Tahoe missed five 3-point attempts in a row during a four-minute stretch of the third period.

Douglas opened the fourth quarter with a 12-5 run that established an eight-point lead, 49-41, with 2:23 to play.

South Tahoe, which like Douglas entered the game with hopes of finishing as high as second place in Sierra League standings, wasn’t about to quit, though. The Vikings responded with an 8-2 run that cut the Tigers’ advantage to two points with 47 seconds remaining.

The Tigers, like they did in their two previous wins over Carson and Hug, sealed the game at the free throw line. Erik Olson hit both ends of a one-and-one situation with 1:42 left on the clock. Lee was four-for-four from the line in the final 44 seconds. And Jared Kenison hit two crucial foul shots to give the Tigers a 4-point lead with 24 seconds to play.

“The last four games we’ve won, we’ve been a second-half team,” Lee said. “I think that shows we’re mentally strong that we can pull out wins in the second half.”

The Tigers made 20 of 24 free throw attempts in the game, which marked the third consecutive time they connected on 83 percent of their foul shots in a contest.

“Erik stepped up and hit two. Jared stepped up and hit two. Seth stepped up and hit four,” Lewis said. “That’s pretty calm, cool and collected when guys go up there and do it that many times. I told them before we left the locker room that free throws would win the game. We knew it would be close.”

In the their last three games, Lee is 22 for 23 (96 percent) from the free throw line, Will Thomas is eight for nine (89 percent), Olson is 14 for 18 (78 percent), Honer is nine for 12 (75 percent) and Kenison is a perfect six for six.