In a game carrying Skyline League playoff implications, it was North Douglas falling to Days Creek 47-39 last Tuesday on the road.
“I mean, it’s hard to find positives when you lose,” said North Douglas head coach Tyler Vancil after the loss. “The things we talked about we didn’t really execute… We need to execute better, it’s that simple. This is a tough place to play, Days Creek is a great team.”
In the first matchup between these teams, it was the Warriors (12-9, 7-3 Skyline) finding success down low against the Wolves (15-5, 9-1) on the way to a victory. But on Tuesday night, Days Creek’s defensive adjustment and North Douglas turnovers created problems for the Warriors in a jumbled game.
“Our plan was to get it in the post and when we could, we did but they did a good job at helping backside. Our biggest plan coming into the game was to not turn the ball over and we turned it over too much. That’s been our kryptonite all year is turning the ball over. Just unforced,” said Vancil. The Warriors finished the contest with 15 turnovers.
The game got off to a slow start as both teams struggled to score early leading to an 8-8 tie after one quarter of play. The Wolves began to get shots to fall in the second and built up a nine-point lead. Throughout the game Days Creek leaned on a balanced scoring attack that saw 14 points from Rocco Muir and 13 from both Caleb Kruzic and Blake Ellis.
“It was a weird game. The flow, I didn’t feel like we were just churning on our offense like we try to do. But hey, I’ll take it,” said Days Creek head coach James Ellis. “They didn’t get into what they wanted to get into. I thought we did a good job defensively, I think they did a good job defensively. We just came out on top this time.”
After cutting their deficit to five at halftime, North Douglas took a brief lead in an out of sync third quarter – in which neither team’s offense proved to be effective at scoring – but trailed by one heading into the fourth.
Days Creek pieced together an 11-2 run stretching from the end of the third through the middle of the fourth to take control of the game. The Warriors wouldn’t go away easily and a Cal Parks three-pointer with less than a minute to play made it a three point game. Cal Parks finished with a team high 12 points while Tanner Parks had 10.
“Cal is so good and so elusive, I mean, you saw how we lost him when we hit the three,” said Ellis. “He was my number one guy in the huddle and we lost him and I was like, ‘What are we doing?’”
The game then came down to free throws where Days Creek was 15-of-20 from the line including eight-of-11 in the fourth quarter. North Douglas finished the game one-for-eight from the line and had four misses in a row in the final 23 seconds of the game.
“I don’t know,” said Vancil on how the team can get better at free throw shooting. “I’ve been trying to shoot free throws every day in practice. I don’t know. That killed us at the end.”
The Warriors and Wolves are in a pack of four teams – along with Umpqua Valley Christian (18-3, 10-1) and Riddle (19-3, 9-2) – at the top of the Skyline League fighting for three spots to get to the state tournament. While all four teams have clinched spots at the district tournament, the race is now on for an elusive one seed that secures a first round bye. Riddle has locked in the one seed in the South region, and, after last Tuesday’s game, it is now Days Creek and UVC fighting for that top spot in the North division.
“The District playoff is going to be a nightmare. It is. Because we’re all four, if we all do our job, should get into the playoffs. And one of those guys has to stay home, only three advance. And it’s a shame,” said Ellis. “But for a coach, it’s an anxiety attack waiting to happen because it’s going to be tough.”
Unless there is a massive upset before the weekend, the one-seed will be determined by Saturday’s game between UVC and Days Creek. The Warriors will, presumably, play the winner of that game on the road next Tuesday or Wednesday in the first round of the Skyline League District tournament. North Douglas lost both matchups to UVC and split their games with Days Creek.
“Anybody can beat anybody in this league on any night. So we’re not overlooking anybody, we’re trying to get ready for every single team we play and the boys know that,” said Vancil. “I just tell them in the locker room, ‘Hey, we’ve got to have some urgency towards the end of the season.’”
On Saturday the Warriors lost to 2A Glide 53-41 on the road in a non-league game. Caleb Parks had 25 for North Douglas as Justin Smith added 10.
North Douglas faces Yoncalla (9-14, 4-8) on the road on Friday before finishing the regular season on Saturday at home against Elkton (4-17, 1-9).