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Tigers improve playoff chances with key victory

by Chuck Smock

The Douglas Tigers’ remarkable run through the second half of the Sierra League season continued Friday with a crucial overtime victory over the Carson Senators.

The win was the third in a row for the Tigers (4-4 in league play) and helped them stay in the hunt for a second-place league finish and the home game in the first round of the Region playoffs that goes with it.

“This year has been crazy,” said senior Seth Lee, who scored a game-high 23 points Friday. “We were 1-4 and could have quit. We’re 4-4 now with two games left. That game was awesome. It was back and forth all game long. We could have quit. We could have gotten tired. We just hung with it. We didn’t give up. I’m really proud. The team has really come together. It’s awesome.”

Douglas wraps up the regular season this week. The Tigers played at South Tahoe on Tuesday and will play at Wooster Friday. If Douglas wins its last two games -and Reno was able to beat Carson on Tuesday – the Tigers will finish second.

The Tigers and Senators waged a battle worthy of long-time rivals on Friday.

Carson started the first quarter with a 9-3 run. Douglas finished the period by scoring eight unanswered points.

The Senators matched their biggest lead of the game, seven points, midway through the third quarter. Douglas chipped away at the deficit and got it down to a single point when Seth Lee hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Neither team led by more than two points in a fourth quarter that featured six lead changes and five ties.

The Tigers had two chances to win the game at the end of regulation. Lee, who hit five 3-pointers in the game, couldn’t connect on a long 3-pointer with about five seconds remaining. Will Thomas grabbed the rebound, but his fall-away jumped from about 12 feet missed the mark.

Lee didn’t let the miss bother him. He buried a 3-pointer for a 59-56 early in the overtime period.

“You have to forget it when you miss,” the senior said. “And if you make it, you have to believe, ‘Hey, I’m going to get on a roll.'” I would have liked to make that one at the end of regulation, but I’ll take the overtime win.”

Thomas made seven of eight free-throw attempts in the final two minutes to seal the victory.

“Like I told the kids, this will be a game they remember for the rest of their lives,” Douglas coach Keith Lewis said. “This is what high school basketball is all about. It was punch for punch the entire night. One team would go on a run, and the other team would answer back.

“We beat a good team playing a good game. I thought Carson played well, and I just thought, tonight, our kids played better.”

Thomas finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Erik Olson scored 12 points.

Rob Honer scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds. He set the tone defensively in the overtime period when he blocked a shot attempt by Cody Longero. Honer limited Longero to 18 points.

“They rely on me more for my defense than my offense,” said Honer, who hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter. “They put me on Cody and I knew I could guard him. I just had to believe.”

The Tigers made 24 of 29 free-throw attempts. Carson was 6-for-20 from the line.

“This was truly a team win,” Lewis said. “You had a lot of guys stepping up. Seth hit some great shots, some clutch shots. Will hit some free throws down the stretch. Robby hit some big 3-pointers in the second half. I thought Luke (Rippee) and Travis (Baker) played very well.

“I’m proud to be their coach tonight. You look smart when you win, but it’s just about having kids go out and play like they’re capable of playing. These guys have rallied up from a hole that a lot of people were ready to bury them in.”