Cheyenne buries Douglas
By Joey Crandall
The Douglas High boys’ basketball team knew heading into Thursday night’s state semifinal matchup against Cheyenne that it was going to have to use its size advantage to have any chance of wearing down the swift squad from down south.
The Tigers just never got the chance.
Cheyenne used its blazing speed and hyperathleticism to take the wind out of Douglas’ sails early on, cruising to a 93-54 win at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
It marked the largest margin of victory in a state playoff game since Cheyenne beat Hug 77-40 in the first round of the 2001 playoffs.
“There’s nobody in the north that is that athletic,” Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. “We haven’t seen anything like that this season. We had some stars in our eyes early on there and they just got rolling.”
Thacker said his team’s goals were to keep Cheyenne out of the transition game and keep them under 50.
“Heading into the game, we thought we had a pretty good matchup with them,” Thacker said. “We knew we’d have to get back and block out in order to stay in this.
“We talked about keeping them out of transition, but they just got the ball and it looked like the floodgates were open. They were ready to go.?
Douglas controlled the opening tip, but a miss on the post and ensuing rebound by Cheyenne set up the first of what would be a nightmarish series of transition baskets against the Tigers.
The Desert Shields jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the first four minutes of the game, keeping Douglas from being able to settle into any half court offense.
A series of missed field goals for Douglas kept feeding the ball into Cheyenne’s transition machine.
“The floodgates just opened up for them,” Thacker said. “They weren’t even running their half court stuff. They just kept getting the ball up the floor and they were gone.”
Jeff Nady broke Douglas’ scoring drought with 3:53 left in the first and Ross Bertolone added a running jumper a minute and a half later, but that accounted for the entirety of the Tigers’ scoring in the first quarter.
Cheyenne went on a 9-0 run over the last two minutes, highlighted by an NBA-range 3-pointer from 6-4 junior Elijah Johnson, who is ranked among the top 50 juniors in the country.
Douglas settled into a bit of a rhythm to start the second with a basket from Nady and a 3-pointer from Kevin Emm.
Emm scored again on a baseline drive to cut Cheyenne’s lead to 28-11, but the Desert Shields essentially put the game away with a 12-0 run over the next two minutes.
A 7-0 run to close out the half for Cheyenne pushed the score to 51-16 and put the nail in the coffin.
“We’re hoping to hold them to 50 points for the game and they scored 51 in the first half,” Thacker said. “That’s tough.”
With the game out of reach, Thacker rotated the bulk of his regular season roster (Douglas had three junior varsity call-ups for the postseason) into the game and 11 players ended up putting points on the board.
“It was a good experience for them,” Thacker said. “Hopefully they hang onto it and build our program.
“This just shows us where we are. We have to get down to Las Vegas and play in some tournaments down there to get to that level. That’s where we want to be.”
Douglas had 13 points from Emm, nine apiece from Nady and David Laird, five from James McLaughlin, four each from Herman Fillmore and Nick Hales and two each from Bertolone, Tim Rudnick, CJ Marcotte, Tyler Hoelzen and Drew Hamlett.
Cheyenne had four players finish in double figures as Ricky Henry led the team with 20, Johnson had 13 and Eric Leider and Christian Lightbourne each finished with 10.
Thacker said despite the loss, he was pleased with what the team accomplished this season.
“We came a long way as a team,” he said. “The kids really matured and grew. We’ve told them that every day this year.
“We’re very proud of them. You look at what they’ve down, regional runner-ups last year and this year, state tournament this year, it’s great for the program.
“It wasn’t just tonight, it was the playoff run. That’s why we bring the younger guys up. It builds the program and helps them understand what it will take to get back here.”
Douglas finished the year 21-11 overall.
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