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North vs. South: Local prep hoop teams gear up for state tourney
by Dan Eckles
Feb 21, 2012 | 993 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Hug High basketball players congregate around coach Charles Walker (center) during the Hawks’ practice Tuesday night.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Hug High basketball players congregate around coach Charles Walker (center) during the Hawks’ practice Tuesday night.
It’s an even numbered year and that means it’s once again northern Nevada’s turn to host the NIAA’s state basketball tournament. Starting Thursday, the University of Nevada’s Lawlor Events Center will host the annual event, featuring the top prep hoop teams from across the Silver State.

Nevada’s large high schools, the 4A members, tip off tourney play Thursday. The boys state semifinal affairs are set for 4:40 p.m. and 8 p.m. Both tourney tilts feature North vs. South matchups. North runner-up Douglas will meet national and state power Bishop Gorman at 4:40 p.m. while North champ Hug will clash with Green Valley at 8 p.m.

Here’s a closer look at those two matchups.

- Hug (23-3) vs. Green Valley (17-12) -

Hug is making its second trip to the state tournament in the last four years. The Hawks were last at state after winning the North title in 2009. The HHS crew is hoping for a better result this time around after it was bounced in its state semifinal in lopsided fashion three years ago.

Hug is red hot, having won 19 of its last 20 games. The Hawks’ only loss in that stretch came to league rival Reno earlier this month. Hug’s latest run of success is highlighted by a 74-69 win over Douglas Saturday in the Northern 4A title game.

“The kids are pretty excited,” Hug coach Charles Walker said. “Defensively, we’ve played good team defense. Our stops on defense got us out and running on the fast break. That’s got us easy buckets.”

Hug will face a Green Valley team that took its lumps early but has gelled at the right time. The Gators are pretty hot right now as well. They have won 13 of their last 14 games. Their lone loss in that stretch was a 55-51 defeat against Foothill. Green Valley got its revenge by dropping the Falcons 70-63 in the Sunrise Region championship last weekend.

Green Valley had been 4-11 before finding its winning ways in January. Senior guard Durrell McDonald and senior forward Devan Kohn are a dynamic duo for the Gators, averaging 21 and 15 points per game respectively.

“They have some size and a pretty good guard who likes to operate off the dribble,” Walker said. “We’ll have to contain him.”

The Hug coach knows the Gators are rolling, but he said his team will be ready for whatever is thrown at it.

“Teams from the South usually like to get up and down,” he said. We’ll see how the game goes. We’ll see how it is being played and make adjustments … One of the good things about our team is we can go up-tempo, but we can find the bucket in a half-court game too.

“Playing against the Vegas teams is fun. It’s always exciting to play the South teams.”

- Bishop Gorman (26-4) vs. Douglas (20-10) -

Gorman has earned its reputation as the dominant program in the state of Nevada. The Gaels have been to the state tournament each of the past four seasons. They won the title in 2010 and were the favorite to do so again last year before getting upset by Bishop Manogue in a state semifinal.

You can bet the Gorman coaching staff and players won’t be looking past Douglas after seeing their dreams of hanging a state championship banner die prematurely last winter.

“We have wanted to get back here to state after getting upset last year,” Gaels coach Grant Rice said. “One of our goals is to get another shot at it this year. Every once in a while we’ll talk about that Manogue game if the kids are getting complacent. We remind the seniors that even though they were on the team that won a state championship when they were sophomores, they weren’t huge contributors. We try to let them know that they want to leave a legacy of their own.”

Gorman comes into the state tournament streaking. The Gaels have won 12 straight games 20 of their last 21. The Las Vegas private Catholic school’s lone loss in the new year came to Findlay Prep, a private prep school which is not an NIAA member, on Jan. 21.

“We’ve got a good group of seniors who have been playing together for three or four years now,” Rice said. “All five have a lot of experience and played in a lot of big tournament games in different parts of the country. It’s a very mature team and very experienced. we’re not taking anything for granted. Hopefully, the guys are ready to play this week.”

Bishop Gorman is led by 6-foot 6-inch swingman Shabazz Muhammad, who averages more than 25 points per outing. Many publications list him among the Top 5 recruits in the country. Muhammad has his virtual pick of the nation’s elite colleges to choose from but has not committed yet.

Douglas must slow him down as well as the four other Gaels who average nine points or more if they want to contend with the BGHS hoopsters.

“If you don’t get excited to play that kind of competition, what do you get excited for,” Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. “Playing Gorman puts us in the national spotlight too. If you looked at the front page of there we were … ‘Bishop Gorman faces Douglas of Minden, Nev.’ We have played good D-1 players before. We played Long Beach Poly in December. We play in tough tournaments in the spring and summer. We play against D-1 athletes so our kids have had these opportunities.”

Douglas has a balanced offensive attack as well. Five Tigers score seven points or more per game. Junior big man Hunter Myers leads the way, pouring in more than 16 points per game.

“We definitely know Douglas is a solid team,” Rice said. “They have a lot of guys that can play and a kid that can get a double-double on any night. Douglas is a very well-coached team and they have the size to match us. We know they’ve won a lot of games. We look forward to the challenge.”

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