Tigers have their shot at league lead
Douglas High boys basketball coach Corey Thacker always makes it a point to say every game is important.
Then again, the stakes will be a little bit higher tonight when the Tigers travel to Galena for a 7 p.m. contest that could go a long way toward determining the Sierra League championship.
“This is our chance to knock off No. 1,” Thacker said. “They’re the hottest team; they’re definitely on a streak right now.”
Galena (9-2) leads the race, however, Douglas (11-7 overall, 7-4 Sierra League) is on a roll of its own and coming off an impressive 78-65 victory Tuesday night against North Valleys at Randy Green Court.
Austin Evans scored 22 points and James Herrick 18 to pace the Tigers past the talented Panthers. Evans shot 8-for-16 from the field, including three 3-pointers, to equal his season best scoring total. The 78 points was a team high this season for Douglas.
Thacker was obviously pleased about the performance of the Tigers on this night.
“I just liked the way the kids adjusted to everything they threw at us,” he said. “They tried to double us, they ran some zone, they ran some man, and we were always able to answer.”
A sequence near the midway mark of the second quarter helped put the Tigers in the driver’s seat.
Protecting a slim 20-17 lead, A.J. Pfaffenberger intercepted a pass on the defensive end and took the ball straight to the basket. The senior guard was fouled as he went airborne, but was able to switch the ball from his right hand to left and flipped in the layup. Pfaffenberger missed his free throw attempt, however, Tay Simms grabbed the offensive rebound which led to Pfaffenberger feeding an Alley-oop pass to Herrick for a layup to extend the Douglas lead to 24-17.
Evans hit back-to-back 3-pointers within a span of 26 seconds, the first assisted by Simms, to push the lead to 30-19 with 4:06 to go in the second quarter. Zach Kellar’s baseline jumper made it 37-25 and the Tigers took a 38-29 advantage to the locker room at halftime.
The closest North Valleys got after that was 5 points at 38-35 after Jalil Walker’s takeaway and dunk 30 seconds into the third quarter. Douglas had an answer as Evans scored 7 points in 29 seconds — two free throws, a 3-pointer, followed by a layup off a steal on the inbounds play.
“He was feeling hot, and the thing about that is other teams know he can knock down shots so he has to work that much harder to get open,” Thacker said of Evans, a 6-foot-5 senior guard. “What I really like, too, is how everybody around him worked to get the ball in his hands. It’s nice to see we, as a team, can recognize who has the hot hand. And we have four or five guys who can do that (develop a hot hand).”
Herrick added two more baskets, on a putback and then a turnaround hook shot that was assisted by Pat Johnson to complete the game-breaking 11-0 run.
Alex Tessmann scored 10 points and Johnson 9 for the Tigers. Pfaffenberger contributed 5 assists and Herrick 11 rebounds.
Walker led all scorers with 28 points for North Valleys (11-10, 3-8).
The Tigers have won seven of their last nine games coming into tonight’s key test at Galena, which has won eight straight. This is also Douglas’ opportunity for some payback from Dec. 20 when the Grizzlies rallied for a 47-46 win on Noah Peck’s 3-pointer with 12.3 seconds left to play.
For Douglas, now tied with Carson for third-place in the league standings, this is an opportunity to continue its pursuit of a third straight league title. Thacker is quick to point out how every game is important and others remain to be played after tonight.
“I’m not thinking that far ahead yet,” Thacker said of the title bid. “Right now, we’ve got to think about Galena.”