For the second time in as many seasons, the Douglas High boys basketball team is headed back to the Class 5A state tournament.
Thursday night, the Tiger boys assured themselves of at least two more games this season after taking down the North’s top seed in Spanish Springs, 52-43.
The Cougars had bested Douglas twice during the regular season, but it didn’t matter in the regional semifinal as the Tiger defenders were stalwarts all game long.
“Spanish Springs is a freaking amazing program, but I’m so proud of our kids,” said Douglas High head coach Corey Thacker. “We were a lot better today at guarding the 3-point line.”
Equally impressive for Douglas – over the past two seasons – has been the program’s ability to win tournament games on the road.
Last season, Douglas clinched its state tournament spot on the road at Bishop Manogue before winning the regional title at Carson.
Thursday night’s win at Spanish Springs means Douglas will return to Sparks Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off against No. 3 Bishop Manogue where they will play for the Class 5A North regional championship.
The Miners bested second-seeded Reno, 81-67, at Reno High in the other semifinal.
“We knew what it was going to take to get here,” said Theo Reid. “We’ve been playing together for so long. It feels like it’s really all starting to pay off.”
Douglas held Spanish Springs to 12 points in the opening half, which was a season low for the Cougars.
On top of that, the Tigers built their first half lead on the back of a massive rebounding advantage.
After the first 16 minutes of play, Douglas had a plus-12 rebounding edge over Spanish Springs.
“Our kids just had to make sure we were communicating and stayed after everybody,” said coach Corey Thacker. “Our offensive rebounds were huge in that first half.”
The Tigers led 23-12 at the break and didn’t allow much more in the third quarter in taking a 35-24 lead after three.
Douglas used a combination of a 2-3 and a 1-3-1 zone to keep the Cougars off balance and was able to guard the paint with the towering forward pairing of Theo Reid and Jack Tolbert.
In the fourth, the Cougars found a bit of a rhythm on the back of sophomore guard Conner Sheets.
Sheets buried two 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter and found a teammate for a mid-range shot to make it 38-32.
Nate Penney and Sheets clawed the Cougars within one, 42-41, with 2:18 to play but it was as close as Spanish Springs got.
Out of a timeout, Theo Reid swung an outlet pass to Caden Thacker for three.
After a defensive stand, Jeremiah Pitts made a hustle play to keep the ball alive in the corner before flicking it to Thomas McDowell, who drew a foul.
McDowell hit both attempts from the charity stripe before Thacker followed with one of his own after the Tigers had entered the double bonus.
Up 48-41, Douglas got another stop on defense thanks to an Aden Flory steal which sent JC Reid to the free throw line after the Cougars were forced to foul inside of the final minute.
Douglas closed it out at the charity stripe and ended the night 14-of-19 from the free throw line.
Sheets ended the night with a game-high 20 points while Penney had 11. Douglas limited the rest of the Cougar team to 12 points total.
(Douglas High senior Theo Reid battles for possession with Spanish Springs' Nate Penney during the Class 5A regional semifinal contest Thursday night in Sparks. / Ron Harpin)
Attacking the hoop
While it was undoubtedly one of the best defensive performances of the season for Douglas, the offense was able to shine through in key situations.
The Tigers first points of the second half came on a drive-and-dish from Thacker to Reid.
Thacker beat his first defender and as the help defender slid over, the sophomore guard flung a pass behind his head to the 6-foot-8 Reid for an easy, uncontested layup.
“Seeing the way he’s developed, … knowing he’s going to throw a crazy pass in a big game like this is always helpful,” said Reid.
The senior forward said he is always ready for a dish because of Thacker’s ability to thread passes through even smaller windows in practice.
Thacker ended the night with a team-high 15 points while Reid had 12.
Thomas McDowell contributed 10 points of his own while senior guard JC Reid scored all nine of his points in the second half.
Jack Tolbert sunk all four of his points from the free throw line.
For McDowell, he scored in double figures for the seventh time in his last nine outings.
Last season, McDowell missed the postseason run so it adds a new layer to be a key piece with this year’s team.
“Last year, I didn’t play much because of injuries and stuff, but coming back this year strong. It’s been great,” McDowell said.
Thacker echoed his sentiments.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to think,” said Caden Thacker postgame. “I wanted it to happen. We thought it would happen. We had one goal, which was to hang a banner in the ceiling. We want to do that again so we’re going to go back-to-back.”
(Douglas High's Caden Thacker shoots a 3-pointer on his way to a team-high 15 points in the Tigers' regional semifinal win over Spanish Springs Thursday night. / Ron Harpin)