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Reno’s prayer answer at buzzer

by Chuck Smock

If they didn’t know it already, the members of the Douglas boys’ basketball team learned an important lesson Friday: Life isn’t fair.

That reality was hammered home when Reno senior Ryan Kane launched a prayer of a three-pointer that somehow found the net as the buzzer sounded, giving the Huskies a 56-54 win that secured the Division II championship.

Granted, the Tigers were playing only for pride. But a win over the Huskies would have erased many of the painful memories that piled up in a season when hard work and dedication weren’t always enough to win games.

“I’m so proud of the kids,” head coach Keith Lewis said just minutes after Friday’s loss. “They played out of their minds tonight. What guts. Our kids kept coming back.

“They might have lost the game, but they are winners. This crowd knew that. These guys are going to be winners in life.”

The Tigers, with only two Division II wins to their credit heading into the season-ending game with division-leading Reno, played the Huskies tough through three quarters and took a one-point lead with 30 seconds to play when junior Seth Lee drained his fourth three-pointer.

But Reno appeared to catch a break when Alex Gamboa drove to the basket and drew a foul and two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining.

The DHS gym wasn’t filled to capacity, but it was hard to tell from the noise generated by spirited Douglas fans who seemed to want the victory for their Tigers as much as they wanted it for themselves.

Gamboa – a 90-percent free-throw shooter – calmly stepped to the line and missed badly on his first attempt to tie the game. The crowd roared and raised the decibel level even higher for the second shot.

Incredibly, Gamboa missed again. A two-second scramble for the rebound resulted in a Reno possession with 1.2 seconds showing on the clock.

Reno head coach Pete Padgett called a play for his son, 6-foot-9 freshman phenom David Padgett, who was looking for a 15-foot jumper. The Tigers denied the pass in to Padgett, however, forcing the Huskies to go to the second, or third, option: Kane in the corner, right in front of the Reno bench.

Douglas senior Mike Saylo flew to the corner and got a hand in Kane’s face, but Reno’s lone senior made the shot of a lifetime. He said it was the first time in his career that he has hit a shot at the buzzer to win a game.

“I don’t know what I was thinking, I was just trying to get it off quick,” Kane said in the locker room as his teammates continued mobbing him and suggested more colorful quotes. “I wasn’t thinking much. I was just hoping it went in.”

Pete Padgett was quick to credit the Tigers.

“I thought we played pretty well, but I thought Douglas played an exceptional game,” the Reno coach said. “We knew it was going to be tough down here. There was no doubt.

“And we withstood a phenomenal shooting performance by (Seth) Lee.”

Lee finished with 27 points, including a three-pointer in each quarter.

DHS senior Jared Petersen added 13 points.

Petersen and Lee hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the third quarter to stop a 13-0 Reno run.

Facing a 10-point deficit with six minutes to play, the Tigers put together a 9-0 run on a three-pointer by Kyle Baker, a driving layup by Lee, a rebound and a putback by Petersen and a 4-foot baseline jumper by Saylo.

Gamboa pushed the lead back to two, 53-51, by making one of two free throws, setting up Lee and Kane for two of the most memorable three-pointers of the season.

“We all played our hardest, that’s all we can ask,” Petersen said. “This is a life lesson. There’s going to be stuff that happens to us that is worse than that.”