R-C Sports Notebook: A small light at the end of the tunnel
To say it’s been a tough year for the Douglas High girls’ basketball team would be a bit of an understatement.
With only eight regular season games remaining, the Tigers have surely taken some lumps, as shown by their 6-13 overall record and 1-7 record in Northern 4A play.
It’s not so much the record that has been tough for the Lady Tigers, though. Instead, it’s the way they’ve arrived at a large bulk of those 13 losses.
Watching this team in action ranks among the most uncanny things I have seen in my time covering high school sports. They work hard, they run the floor well (with a great deal of team speed, I might add) and they are among the better defensive teams in the region.
Simply put, they play well enough to win. Every time out.
The statistics back that up, too. Out of 13 losses, five have been by less than 10 points, four have been by less than five and three have been by three or less.
Three of their seven league losses have come by three points or less, with each being decided in the final seconds.
And on Saturday, Douglas led Galena — which can make a strong argument as to why it is the best team in the Sierra League — for over half of the game.
The pieces are all there. The consistency is getting better. And looking at the final four weeks of the regular season, Douglas can throw out its record so far and play for a playoff spot.
That’s not a bad spot to be.
Coach Werner Christen said last week that he believes the team is turning a corner, and their play on the floor seems to back that up. They beat a very talented, although depth-deprived, Hug squad and followed that up by putting the scare into Galena.
Prior to that, they more than held their own against McQueen and Carson — losing both games in the closing seconds.
So here’s how it looks to close things out: vs. Damonte in Minden; at Wooster; at Spanish Springs; vs. Carson in Minden; at Reno; vs. Manogue in Minden, at Galena and at Damonte.
That’s at least four very winnable games for the Tigers, maybe five. With the right breaks, they could close out the year with a 6-10 league record in league play.
The win over Hug put Douglas in a three-way tie, strange as it might seem, with Wooster and Damonte for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Douglas has two meetings with Damonte remaining and one matchup with Wooster, a team they had all but beaten in December. That fourth spot is up for grabs.
Look a little past that, though, and it’s not out of the question that Douglas could make a push for that No. 3 spot, currently occupied by Carson.
Douglas took the Senators to overtime in Carson two weeks ago and a win in the second meeting would sure make things interesting.
Time will tell, but it’s nice to see that this group of girls has perservered through incredible adversity on the floor in order to have a shot at the playoffs.
Shows what a little hard work, heart and effort can give you.
I’ve seen enough games over the past 10 years to be able to tell when a team has issued that final deathblow to an opponent.
It’s a mixture of the right play happening at the right time that takes any and all wind out of an opposing team’s sails. It’s gotten to where when it happens (and it doesn’t happen every game … but it does happen fairly often), I can essentially start piecing together how my story is going to go, based more or less on that moment.
That moment came and went Friday night for the Hug boys’ basketball team. The thing is, someone forgot to tell the Douglas Tigers.
Douglas had taken a slim 37-36 lead early in the third quarter, seemingly having to use the bulk of their resources to get to that point. Big men Matt Thomas, Hunter Myers and Trevor Shaffer were all in a fair bit of foul trouble, as was guard Connor Hughes.
With Douglas’ main strength — team depth — seemingly isolated, Hug capitalized on its main strength — team speed — and launched an 8-0 run over the next minute that gave the Hawks all of the momentum.
The kicker — the moment I spoke of earlier — came when Hug guard Norris Dupree drove down the floor, came up against a defender and shovelled the ball underhanded toward the hoop. The ball bounced high off the glass, glanced once off the rim and slid into the net.
It was as uncanny as it was devastating. At that moment I started trying to think of a lead for the Hug win. For most team, that is the victory moment.
The Tigers had other plans.
Coach Corey Thacker called a timeout, challenged the team to step up and play better defense and the rest, as they say, is history.
Douglas followed with a 13-3 run, sparked largely by senior sixth-man Jorey Scott, and simply pushed their way past the Hawks, winning 69-58.
It hammered home a point that is so easily overlooked about why the Tigers’ depth can be so devastating. Sophomore center Hunter Myers, who has settled admirably into a starting role for Douglas this season, is a special talent. He has all of the tools to continue to grow into a dominating force in the paint (although, he’s not having a ton of trouble with that right now).
Matt Thomas is a special talent with an athleticism that most high school big men simply don’t possess. He does a lot of the dirty work off the boards and he has a knack for coming up with the big basket at the right time.
But, and here’s the main point, how many teams in the history of Northern 4A basketball can pull a senior three-year varsity letterman and returning first-team all-region center off of the bench? Can you think of any?
Add to it that Douglas’ sixth leading scorer on the year (Myers, Scott and Thomas are 1, 3 and 4 respectively) is their third-string post, Trevor Shaffer, and you start to get an idea of what kind of matchup problems Douglas presents to opposing defenses.
It’s proven to be an unstoppable combination for most of the Northern 4A this year. That kind of depth in the front court, come play-off time, could be just the ticket the Tigers need to break through at the regional tournament.
1. Manogue (Record: 14-4 overall. Previous Ranking : 1.)
Why they should be No. 1: They’ve played four of the top five teams this year and beaten each one by double-digits. It’s hard to make an argument for anyone else.
2. Douglas (Record: 14-3 overall. Previous ranking: 2.)
Why they should be ranked higher: With what they did to Hug on Friday night, a case can certainly be made that Douglas’ defense is as good as there is in the region. Offense, especially in the playoffs, can come and go. Defense tends to stay pretty consistent.
3. Hug (Record 12-2 overall. Previous Ranking: 3.)
Why they should be ranked higher: Hug, at times Friday night, was the best team I have seen this year. If their shooters knocked down a couple shots from outside, it may have been a different outcome. I would have taken them over Manogue on Friday night. I think depth might be the main issue, but I sure wouldn’t want to see them in the second round of the playoffs. It sure adds even more meaning to that second Manogue-Douglas matchup on Feb. 4.
4. McQueen (Record 10-7 overall. Previous Ranking: 4.)
Why they should be ranked higher: At this point, the top three are the top three and there’s no argue for anyone else in that trio. The Lancers just learned they won’t get Rollins Stallworth back. Fourth may be as high as they rise this year. Still, they’ve got the playoff experience over Douglas and Hug. It’s worth noting.
5. Reno (Record: 7-6 overall. Previous Ranking: 5.)
Why they should be ranked higher: No argument here. If they can knock off McQueen on Friday, I’ll re-assess.
Why they should be No. 1: This year, it’s Reed and everyone else. You never just hand the title to anyone before the game is actually played, but this year would surely challenge that line of thinking.
Why they should be ranked higher: Reno survived a close call against Galena. When it comes down to it, something should be said for the team that can play in close games under pressure.
Why they should be ranked higher: They shoot, they run and they defend. With the right breaks, they could step up and shock a Reed or a Reno in the playoffs. Those would have to be some amazing breaks though.
Why they should be ranked higher: It’s hard to make an argument here as well. Galena has lost Nos. 2 and 3 and they won’t come close to Reed next week in Sparks. Four is probably as high as they go until the rematch against Manogue this weekend.
Why they should be ranked higher: The Lancers have been up and down throughout the season, but after dispatching North Valleys and Carson last week, they earned a slot in the top 5.