The North Douglas boys’ basketball team started the 2019-20 season with a roster comprised of half freshmen and half seniors. They went just 5-4 in their non-league games. Questions abounded early. Now, they’re Skyline league champions.
After finishing the season by winning 11 of their final 13 games, the Warriors (17-8 overall, 11-1 league) took on a talented Days Creek team (15-10, 11-1) on Mon., Feb. 17 in a tiebreaker game that would determine the league winner as well as the top seed in the Skyline North for league playoffs. North Douglas prevailed, winning 39-30, and cemented themselves as the Skyline’s top dogs in 2020.
“I did some research,” said head coach Tyler Vancil after the game. “The last time North Douglas won a league title in basketball was in the 2010-11 season and before that it was 1995. So, this is only the third time in 25 years.”
In recent years, the boys team has often found themselves in the back seat, as the girls’ basketball program finds success year after year, but, having never won a league title of their own since joining the Skyline in 2014, the Warriors saw an opportunity as their team began to come together more and more throughout the season.
“I brought it to their attention at the start of practice last week and let them know that this is our biggest week yet,” Vancil said.
In order to earn their championship, the road wasn’t exactly easy and, for much of the last week, the road was exactly where they spent their time.
The Warriors traveled to Riddle (16-4, 9-2) last Friday, won, then the very next day made a two-and-a-half hour trek to Aloha to take on third-ranked Life Christian (23-1, 17-1) where they narrowly lost, 46-41, in impressive fashion. Then, on Monday they were off to Umpqua Valley for the neutral-site tiebreaker game.
“That’s one of the things we talked about is that we just hung with the number-three team in the state in 1A,” Vancil said. “We were down one with a minute to go and had to foul ... but we didn’t play great in that game and we were still in the game to win. So I told them, ‘If we can play that well on Monday against Days Creek or better, we got the game.’”
One big reason for the team’s success has been the ongoing incorporation of the freshman talent on the roster. The veterans of the team — seniors Jake Gerrard, Ray Black, Austin Frieze, Colter Anderson and Tanner Parks — provide a steady foundation, but they always needed the less experienced players to step up in order to achieve loftier goals. In the Days Creek game, they got just that.
“The freshmen have that fluidness when they’re on the court from playing together for so long,” Vancil said. “But, trying to intermingle the freshmen and seniors who haven’t, it just took a little longer to get there, but we’re there now and we’re getting there at the right time.”
After a scoreless first two minutes, freshman Keegan Mast hit a three to start the scoring and fellow first-year Ray Gerrard used his size and strength to dominate down low, grabbing rebounds and scoring 11 of his 13 total points in the first half.
“Those two freshmen didn’t play like freshmen last night. Everyone else obviously contributed as well, but those two really stood out,” Vancil said.
Just as the game began, Mast closed it out, getting a steal with under a minute remaining and scoring a layup on the fastbreak to go up by 12 and seal the victory. Now, the Warriors will see if this is the end of the road, or just the beginning.
The past, present and future of the girls program has rarely been in doubt in recent memory. Their success is nearly a given. After clinching this year’s league title, the boys may be taking it upon themselves to turn North Douglas into a basketball powerhouse no matter who takes the floor.