Tigers get ready
Are the Douglas Tigers ready for what promises to be a dogfight of a Division II campaign?
They’d better be. The Tigers will play five games in the first 12 days of the league season. And all five opponents are expected to compete for one of the four division playoff spots – if not the Division II championship.
The Tigers opened league play with a road game at Wooster late Tuesday. Results from that contest weren’t available for this issue.
Douglas will play host to perennial power South Tahoe on Friday at 7 p.m. The Tigers then will travel to play Carson on Tuesday, followed by back-to-back games against Fallon at home next Friday and on the road at Hug on Saturday.
“Every game is big now,” Tigers head coach Keith Lewis said after practice Monday night. “All season it’s been, ‘It’s early. It’s early.’ That no longer applies. That excuse is out the door.”
Up next are the South Tahoe Vikings, who have won 11 of the last 12 Division II titles. They don’t appear ready to step aside any time soon.
“South Tahoe is very good,” Lewis said. “We watched them in San Diego (last week at the NIKE National Prep Basketball Classic). They are very quick and they’re well-coached. You won’t find a team in this league that executes better. They play with an energy and a passion you don’t see very often in high school sports. I’d like to be a mouse in their gym to figure out how he (coach Tom Orlich) does it.”
Having said all that, Lewis made it clear that neither he nor his players will concede anything to the Vikings, whose only weakness may be a lack of height.
“They’re not unbeatable,” he said. “But it’s going to take a coming-out party for us. We’re going to have to have a breakout game.”
South Tahoe likes to run the floor on offense and employs a smothering run-and-jump press on defense.
The key for the Tigers will be trying to control the tempo of the game by executing in their half-court offense. That means not only hitting the open outside shots, but also being able to work the ball into the low post. It also means having the patience and unselfishness to recognize the matchups where they can beat the Vikings for easy points.
“We have a size advantage,” Lewis said. “If we can handle their pressure, we should be able to take advantage of that.”
The Tigers did their final tuneup for the drive through the league season at the San Diego tournament. They defeated a team from Australia, but lost to three tough teams from California.
Lewis had two main goals for his squad heading into the tournament. He wanted his players to be tested by quality competition and he wanted to implement new offensive and defensive schemes in live-game situations.
Lapses at important times in each of the losses prevented the Tigers from posting a better record.
“We played better than 1-3 indicates,” Lewis said. “In two of those games, we were close going into the fourth quarter, but went cold.
“We still need to learn the difference between what is a good shot and what is a bad shot.”
One of the things that worked against the Tigers in San Diego was the use of a 35-second shot clock, which is used in California high school play. Another bobble occurred when the Tigers scouted what they thought was an upcoming opponent (and a team that wasn’t very good, according to Lewis) only to see a talented 10-2 El Camino squad from Southern California take the court against them on the second day of the tournament.
All in all, Lewis said the San Diego trip was a positive experience for his team.
“We wanted to try some stuff we hadn’t tried before, and we did that,” he said. “Now we have some stuff we can use in league play.
“I thought the competition was good and I think we improved.”
Lewis cited the play of Kyle Baker and Jimmy Coyne as highlights in the tournament. Baker, who has been quiet offensively, scored five points in two different games. And Coyne, who has lit it up a few times this season, had totals of 24 points in one game, 21 in another and 18 in a third to finish with an average of more than 17 points per contest.
“Kyle Baker had a great four days and Jimmy took his game to another level,” the coach said. “For the most part, our inside guys played well. But we’re still lacking consistency off the bench.”
The coach also said point guard John Dunbar continued a long run of solid play in San Diego.
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