MINDEN — Ian Ozolins hasn’t scored a ton of points, but he got the biggest basket of his Douglas High career, and stole a home playoff game from Carson in the process.
Ozolins made a backdoor cut with the clock winding down and scored on a layup with 5 seconds left to snap a 48-all tie and give the Tigers a thrilling 50-48 come-from-behind win over the Senators before a packed house at Randy Green Court Saturday night.
The loss dropped Carson into third place, and instead of hosting Reed on Tuesday, the Senators will travel to Reno for a 7 p.m. game. Douglas was already slotted in the fourth spot and will go to Spanish Springs, 16-0 in league, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The game-winning basket wasn’t designed for Ozolins.
“It was supposed to be a shot for one of the guards,” he said while accepting congratulations from well wishers. “I just went backdoor. Definitely my biggest basket.”
“The kids executed it well,” Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. “They ran through every option. I think he (Ozolins) was the fourth option; the last option. The kids showed a lot of heart and played hard.”
Carson called timeout with 3.3 left which really wasn’t enough time to do too much. Tez Allen got the inbounds pass, but his shot didn’t fall.
“Three seconds isn’t much time to do anything,” Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. “We had Jayden (DeJoseph) go to the corner (for a possible 3), but they sent somebody to him. Tez tried to make a basketball play but it didn’t work.”
This was indeed a tale of two halves. Carson had a 32-16 lead at the half, but the Tigers outscored Carson 34-16 in the second half.
The key to the game was the final minute of the third quarter and the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
Leading 41-23 after a Geraet Rauh lay-up with 1:25 left in the third quarter, the Senators turned the ball over four straight times, and the Tigers converted two mistakes in the last 19.5 seconds into a three-point play by Ozolins and two free throws by Kaden Christensen to cut the deficit to 41-28 at the half.
The momentum was now with the Tigers, and Corey Thacker’s club ran with it.
Tre Jackson, Josh Carillo and Josh Meza dropped in 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, and Desmond Hinnant made two free throws to cut the deficit to 43-39 with 6:11 left. Tez Allen (13 points) scored three points in a 34-second stretch to make it 46-41 with 5:02 left. A basket by Jackson and a 3-pointer by Ryan Barnes tied it at 46 with 3:31 remaining.
“Carson forced us to play differently,” Thacker said. “We couldn’t slow it down, we had to score. We told the kids to shoot when they had the opportunity.
“We came out in the second half and set the tone. We wanted to show them we weren’t going to back down. The kids believed in each other.”
Neither team scored for the next 90 seconds.
Jayden DeJoseph, who led all scorers with 22 points, gave Carson a 48-46 lead with two free throws with 1:59 left, Meza matched him with 1:24 remaining.
That set the stage for the final shot, and Ozolins broke the hearts of the Carson fans with his game-winning lay-up.
“Turnovers were the difference,” Mendeguia said. “We didn’t execute down the stretch. We panicked (at the end of the third quarter), and then they come out and hit three straight 3s in the fourth quarter. We gave them the momentum. One guy will hit a shot and it becomes contagious. It’s hard to stop (a team) when that happens.”
In the first half, it was the Senators who had all the momentum.
The Senators, led by DeJoseph scored nine of the game’s first 11 points, building an 18-7 lead after one. Carson maintained a double-digit lead (between 12 and 16 points) the rest of the half, taking a 32-16 lead into halftime. DeJoseph had 16 of his 22 in the opening half, and Allen had 12 of his 13. Douglas did a lot of trapping in the second half, and DeJoseph had three free throws and a 3, and Allen managed just one fourth-quarter free throw.