By DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal News Service
RENO - The Douglas Tigers found out just how important freshman Keith Olson is to their team.
Olson injured his lower back after taking a hard spill two-plus minutes into the second quarter and never returned, and first-place Reno rolled to a 69-51 win Saturday in a first-place showdown at Reno High, virtually loking up the league title in the process.
The loss dropped Douglas into a tie for second place with Hug. Both teams are 7-3 with two games left to play, two games behind the Huskies. Douglas hosts Wooster on Tuesday and Carson on Friday. Hug finishes with South Tahoe and North Valleys, and should win both games. If the teams remain tied, Douglas would get the second seed and a first-round home game in the playoffs based on its sweep of Hug in the regular season.
And, the Tigers may have to play one or both games without their talented 6-9 freshman center.
"I landed on my back," Olson said after the game. "My whole back is hurting. I'm going to the doctors (now). I'm sure I'll play Tuesday."
Coach Keith Lewis took a more cautious approach, and he admitted that Olson's absence was big.
"I don't know (if he will)," Lewis said. "It wasn't intentional. I think their guy was on the ground, and Keith came down on him.
"Obviously when you play 24 games in one style (because of Keith) and now you don't have it, obviously it impacts us. I'm not going to say that was the sole reason for the loss because that would be disrespecting Reno, and they played a good game."
Lewis also didn't think the Tigers defended well. Jeremy Lattin burned them for 21 points and 10 rebounds, 13 of those points coming in the second quarter.
"We didn't defend well from the beginning," Lewis said. "We allowed them to be physical with us. Our transition defense wasn't good. They got a lot of easy baskets. Lattin shot well. He made us pay."
Olson, who was fouled on the play he injured his back on, was replaced by Honer, who knocked down two free throws to slice Reno's lead to 19-15 with 5:52 left in the half. Thanks to a Honer three-pointer, a three-pointer by Nick Summers and two buckets by Pat Carlson, the Tigers trailed by only 34-28 at the intermission.
The third quarter was a nightmare for the Tigers, who definitely showed the lack of an inside game. They shot 33 percent for the quarter, but turned the ball over on five of their first six possessions and eight of their first 11. It wasn't pretty basketball.
"If we were going to come back, I knew we would have to come out strong," Lewis said. "We turned the ball over a lot, and you can't do that against a good team."
Indeed. The Huskies scored seven straight to open the second half, as Brandon Peterson scored on a layup, Scott Jeannes drained a three-pointer and Lattin scored on the inside to make it 41-28 with 6:13 left, all coming after Douglas miscues.
Honer scored a couple of buckets for the Tigers to close the gap to 52-43, but a basket by J.J. Mulligan and a putback by Jarel Barry pushed the lead back up to 15. Reno led 54-38 after three, and the Tigers never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
"It was a real physical first half," Reno coach Eric Swain said. "Both teams knew what was at stake (first place).
"Lattin gave us a lot of energy out there. More then points, he also got some big rebounds for us."
And, that's a big reason why the Huskies are on an eight-game roll heading into the final week of the season.
RENO 59, DOUGLAS GIRLS 49
Douglas did contain Kaylan King, but two of the Huskies' role players - Cory Nelson and Cory Feest - picked up the scoring slack, as Reno clinched the Sierra League round-robin championship.
The Tigers fell to 8-2, tied with Carson for second place. Douglas hosts Wooster on Tuesday and Carson on Friday. The second-place team in the Sierra League will host a first-round playoff game.
Feest, who drilled two quick three-pointers in the first quarter, led the Huskies with 17 and Nelson added 13. The Tigers started the game in a box and one defense against King, who managed 10 points, but only got up six shots.
"I'm not really surprised (by Nelson and Feest)," DHS coach Werner Christen said. "They're solid players capable of stepping up and having big games. We tried a little twist (on Kaylan). She's a premier player. We had to try something."
"They did try to take one thing away (Kaylan)," Reno coach Craig Campbell said. "Kaylan did a good job of getting other people involved. She understands that it's not about points."
The win by Reno overshadowed a fine performance by DHS point guard Tammy Gough, who scored a season-high 17 points to lead the Tigers. She hit five of six from the floor, including a trio of three-pointers.
"I haven't been in a groove lately," said the diminutive Gough." I really like playing at Reno, so I got some great shots (good looks at the basket)."
"Tammy shot the ball real well," Campbell said. "She's a good shooter. We were too far off her, and she made us pay."
Indeed. Gough's 11 first-half points and eight more by Brittany Puzey kept the Tigers within six at the half, 34-28. Douglas trailed 8-2 within the first two minutes, but an 11-5 run helped the Tigers trim the lead to 15-13 after one.
The Tigers, who shot 40 percent in the first half, couldn't buy a basket in the third quarter. They were 2-for-11 shooting from the floor, and Reno surged ahead 47-32 thanks to a 13-2 run led by King's five points and four by Nelson.
Douglas could have quit, but didn't. The Tigers went on a 11-4 surge of their own to make it 53-47. Gough knocked down four free throws and Julie Gingrich added a three-pointer.
Two free throws apiece by King and Feest made it a 10-point game with 90 seconds remaining.
Two keys for Douglas at the offensive end was that Reno held Puzey scoreless the second half. She went 0-for-6 from the floor, and Nelson held Gingrich, a consistent double-figure scorer to only seven points.