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Tigers win 1 of 3 in Las Vegas

by Chuck Smock

The Tigers finished the tournament with a 66-65 loss to Vista, Calif., on Saturday.

Will Thomas, as he did in all three games, led Douglas with 25 points. Travis Baker and Erik Olson each scored 13 points. Olson also grabbed eight rebounds. Baker handed out nine assists.

Luke Rippee finished with five points, five rebounds and four assists.

Douglas defeated Ross Shephard of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 46-36, on Friday for its lone win of the tournament.

Thomas scored 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and three steals. Olson added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Rippee scored 10 points.

The Tigers opened the tournament with a 51-39 loss to Palm Desert, Calif., on Thursday.

Thomas finished with 16 points, including a 14-for-16 performance from the free-throw line. He also led the Tigers with five rebounds. Olson scored seven points and had four rebounds. Baker, Rippee and Tyler Hales each finished with four points.

Douglas head coach Keith Lewis didn’t make the trip to Las Vegas with his team. Lewis stayed home with his wife, Nicole, who is expecting the couple’s first child any day.

The coach did get the chance to break down the action on the video tape after the Tigers returned to town.

“After watching the video of all three games, I feel we have a long ways to go, and not a lot of time to get there,” said Lewis, whose team will play non-league games against Incline on Friday and Fallon next Thursday before jumping back into the Sierra League schedule with a road game against Carson on Jan. 8. “If we want to be anything other than also-rans in our division, we have to improve as individuals and as a team in the areas we are currently failing.”

Lewis said his players could easily turn their season around if they concentrated on improving in four areas. The first thing the Tigers need to do, according to their coach, is take better care of the ball.

Douglas committed six turnovers in the first quarter and five more in the second quarter of a 66-63 overtime loss to the Hug Hawks last Tuesday.

The Tigers have lost three games by a single point this season. One or two possessions in each of those four losses could have been the difference between a 3-9 record and a 7-5 mark.

“We talk all the time with the kids about the ‘little things’ that make the difference between successful and unsuccessful teams,” Lewis said. “When you lose three games by one point and another in overtime, then, obviously, there must be some ‘little’ things that we are not doing well.”

Lewis also said the Tigers will have to work harder D from opening tip to final buzzer DEif they hope to make a run at a second-consecutive playoff berth.

“We have a habit that I am very worried about in that we only push ourselves, in terms of hard cuts and running our lanes, when we think we’ll benefit personally from doing so,” he said.

And that leads right into the coach’s third area of improvement, which is playing tougher defense.

Players who defend well are almost always overshadowed by players who put up big offensive numbers. Coaches love a guy who will take a charge, but fans will be talking about the game-winning shot at the buzzer long after the bruises fade.

Playing good defense is a mind-set that must be shared equally by everyone on the court, Lewis said.

“We have guys who are giving it everything they have on defense, but they are being let down by teammates who are unwilling to sit down and defend every time down the court,” he said. “(Playing) defense is not fun and it is not easy. It’s about having a lot of heart and a lot of determination.”

The fourth area the Tigers need to improve in is rebounding. Olson is averaging seven rebounds per game, but Douglas is struggling to find one or two other players to fill the rebounding void left by the graduation of Seth Lee and Rob Honer.

Lewis and his assistant coaches, Randy Green, John Summers and JoJo Townsell, have discussed different drills they could run in practice to work on rebounding.

“Yes, you have to be fundamental in boxing out and we can work on technique, but rebounding is a lot like defense in that it takes a lot of heart,” Lewis said. “I feel we need major improvement in this area.”

With their 0-2 start in league play, the Tigers are in familiar territory. Last year, they were in the same position before pulling off a huge road win at Carson. Douglas won its final five league games to finish second in the Sierra League standings.

“As a staff, we know the time is now that we must start playing at a higher level,” he said. “We have great kids, who, whether they like it or not, have high expectations placed on their shoulders by my staff and me. We have all the confidence in the world that they are going to be a very good team this season. We will continue to coach them as hard and as well as we possibly can, because we do have a lot of faith in their abilities and the type of people and players they can be.”