For a pair of teams that have overwhelmed teams offensively all season, Friday night was all about defense.
In a game that came down to the wire and determined the regular season conference champion, it was Days Creek doing just enough to defeat North Douglas 35-33 on the road to claim their first regular season Skyline league title. The team joined the league – and 1A classification – in 2014.
“We never lost contact with a really good Days Creek team throughout the night and shoot, we had a shot to tie or win it at the end. Proud of our composure, proud of how we handled a real physical game and how we were able to get to the next play,” said North Douglas head coach Jeff Davis.
“Proud of how much we’ve grown since we got it handed to us down there in many ways. I think we’re a young team that’s continuing to improve.”
Feasting on weaker teams during conference play, both teams averaged 48 points per game throughout the season, a fact that was not apparent in the first half of play. With shots not falling for either team and intensified defense from both sides, the score at the half was 13-11 in favor of the Wolves. Days Creek scored just four points in the second quarter.
“It’s like buying a used car: the margin is what counts. It could have been 50-48 or 13-11, we’re happy to be in that position,” said Davis.
In the second half, the game opened up and the teams were flying back and forth. As Days Creek rotated in and out of their full court pressure, the Warriors were no longer dependent on jump shots but were able to get baskets in the lane. Leading the charge was Nicki Derrick who finished with a game high 13 points.
As the pace picked up, so too did the fouls. While the physical play on the court appeared to be even between the teams, the Warriors were called for 21 fouls and the Wolves for just 10.
“Real physical game and a lot of bodies on the floor and you know [when we played] down there as an example, we really bristled at that stuff. I think to an extent we were taken out of the game and I felt like we stayed with it pretty well tonight,” said Davis.
The Wolves had a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter with free throws but shot just six-of-15 in the quarter, and 15-of-31 on the game, which left the door open for the Warriors down the stretch.
North Douglas trailed by as many as six points in the final period of play but were able to reel the game back in. After electing to not foul with 40 seconds left to play while down two, Sofia Alcantar forced a jump ball for the Warriors with just 24 seconds to play. North Douglas then was able to attempt two shots in the lane but both bounced off the backboard. After fouling, the Wolves missed a pair of free throws, got the rebound and went one for two from the line with just seconds remaining.
Down two, the Warriors pushed the ball up court but Lilly Downie’s shot at the buzzer went long.
“Just so proud of Lilly for coming out and taking that shot. I’d say 50-50 that thing will go. She’s not afraid to pull the trigger. And I told her, a lot of kids won’t. Lot of time you see time run out and no one takes that shot,” said Davis.
Had the Warriors won, a three-way tie between North Douglas, Days Creek and Elkton would have called for a three-team playoff on Saturday and Monday to determine seeding for the district tournament that begins Wednesday and continues on Friday and Saturday. While disappointed in the loss, Davis was pleased the team would have some time to rest.
“I know the Skyline likes to settle their ties on the floor but if we’re wanting to send our best representatives to the state playoffs and you’ve got to play six games in seven days, that’s pretty tough for 15 and 16-year-olds,” said Davis.
“LeBron’s not doing that.”
Because of the domination from North Douglas, Elkton and Days Creek – all of whom reside in the North Division and were a perfect 27-0 against the rest of the league – this season, the Skyline league changed how their league tournament will work. Last May, it was decided that the league would send one team from the North and one team from the South. If that rule had been held up, one of the three teams from the North would not be able to qualify for state. Last month the league voted to amend the Skyline constitution so that three teams from the same division can all qualify for state.
The league tournament begins today.