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Tigers face hoops tests

by Chuck Smock

Each week seems to get bigger and bigger for the Douglas Tigers.

But that’s what happens when a basketball team develops into a legitimate playoff contender and a potential division champion.

The Tigers posted their fourth straight win with a 52-41 victory over the Reno Huskies on Friday. And, by the end of this week, they could be starting to think about the possibility of hosting a first-round playoff game – or they could be scrambling to get back in the playoff race.

Douglas was in third place in the Division II standings by a full game with a 4-2 record when it traveled to play South Tahoe (first place, 6-1) Tuesday. The Tigers were hoping to regain some respect following their 78-37 loss to the Vikings on Jan. 8.

Douglas will play host to Carson (fourth place, 3-3) on Friday and Wooster (second place, 5-1) on Saturday. There’s some pretty intense history in both of those rematches, too.

The Tigers upset the Senators on their home floor to start their climb through the division standings. And it was Wooster that got Douglas off to a bad start in division play when the Colts beat the Tigers, 67-49, on Jan. 5.

Head coach Keith Lewis said the Tigers are looking forward to the opportunity to avenge their two losses, as well as trying to prove that their first win over the Senators in 15 years was not a fluke.

“We’re playing with so much more confidence,” Lewis said Monday night. “If we go 3-0 (this week), we’ll have a shot at the division lead with three games to go that are winable.

“This is our season, this week. We have to take care of business this week.”

The coach added that the possibility of starting the week with a loss at South Tahoe shouldn’t stall any of the momentum the Tigers have built in the last two weeks.

“I think, no matter what happens (Tuesday), we’ll go into Friday and Saturday with a lot of confidence,” he said.

And much of that confidence will come from the stifling team defense the Tigers are playing.

Against Reno, Douglas trailed 39-36 early in the fourth quarter, but turned up the intensity on defense and didn’t allow the Huskies to score another point for more than six minutes. During that time, the Tigers took control of the game with a 12-0 run that included three players combining to make seven of eight free throw attempts.

Three days after the win, Lewis said two plays really stuck out in his mind.

The first was when point guard John Dunbar made a steal at halfcourt and drove in for a layup to tie the game, 36-36, with 6:42 to play. Following a Reno three-pointer, Dunbar made a 12-foot jumper from the baseline to bring the Tigers to within one point and start the 12-0 run.

Then, with 5:19 remaining, junior guard Taylor Cohee stepped up and drilled a three-pointer seconds after entering the game to give the Tigers a 41-39 lead that they would never relinquish. Douglas didn’t make another field goal in the game, but hit 11 of 14 free throws in the final 1:33 to secure the victory.

Cohee made another big play at the end of the first period when he was fouled while shooting a three-pointer. He calmly sank all three foul shots for a 17-11 DHS lead after eight minutes.

“That’s what we’re looking for off the bench,” Lewis said. “Taylor’s done a nice job. He’s not getting the minutes he expected, but he found a way to come in a make an impact in the game.”

The Tigers made 21 of 27 free throw attempts, but shot only 42 percent from the floor. They were 14 for 26 (54 percent) on two-pointers and one for 10 from three-point range.

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