Assistant coach Evan Helenbolt reminded the Douglas Bearcats at the end of Monday’s practice that they want to be peaking at the right time – the end of the season. There’s still 25 days and seven games separating the Cats (10-4,1-2) from the regional tournament and a possible trip back to Casper.
Until then, Douglas will continue to work on themselves. It’s the only aspect of the game they can totally control, and it’s the only thing holding them back.
Back on their home court last Friday against Newcastle, Douglas dropped its second game against a quadrant foe in three games. Two of the conference’s best scorers, Cade Ostenson and Dylon Tidyman, each scored 14 points to lead the Dogies over the Cats 60-48.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” head coach Chase Plumb said of Newcastle. “They were prepared. They did some good things defensively and held us below our scoring average. But at the same time you have to look at yourself and say, ‘What can you do to get better?’ and the film doesn’t lie. We were sloppy with the basketball. We had too many empty possessions, especially in the first half.”
Trailing 28-19 at halftime, Douglas came out with urgency in the third quarter on offense and went on a run to pull themselves back into the game. They trailed by just two points at the end of the third quarter and regained some momentum on the boards after being outplayed in the first half.
But as the number of missed shots piled up in the fourth quarter, the Cats’ momentum fell to the wayside and the Dogies pulled away for a 12-point win. Douglas shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the loss and converted a measly 2-of-16 shots from behind the three-point line.
“They definitely had everything we did on offense down to a T,” senior Kenyion Townsend said of the Dogies’ defensive effort Friday night. “We just had a few defensive lapses and didn’t make our shots toward the end of the game. We always kind’ve go into those lulls. I think it was a combination of those three things that sealed the game.”
Along with Ostenson and Tidyman, key playmakers Isaiah Brooks and Dylan Talley also put up double-digit scoring performances with 13 and 12, respectively, as Douglas lost its way on the defensive end.
Matthew Underwood scored a team-high 10 points for the Cats with eight rebounds and two steals. Townsend scored 9 to go along with 3 steals and Kanyon Cecil continues to be a valuable asset for Douglas off the bench, contributing 7 points.
The shooting lulls have been a sort of trademark for the Cats this season in their four losses. They recognize the toll that it can take against higher caliber opponents, and it’s something they know can’t go unsolved as the season goes on.
“When you’re going through those fix to six-minute lulls where you aren’t scoring, it’s frustrating,” Plumb said. “That’s where we have to be mentally tough and take care of the ball and go get extra chances.”
He added: “All season long we’ve talked about playing fast and Newcastle took that away from us. We give them a lot of credit, but we also have a lot of things we need to work on.”
Plumb and the Cats got back to work the following afternoon on the road at Cheyenne South and quickly put Friday’s loss in their rear-view mirror.
They forced 17 turnovers and made 18-of-25 free throws in a 55-48 win over the Bison. Underwood once again led the scoring effort with 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Colby Davidson added 13 points and AJ Yeaman contributed seven points and four rebounds in the bounce back win.
“Defensively we played well against Cheyenne South,” Plumb said. “It was great to get rid of the taste of that loss, but we left still knowing that we have plenty of room to improve.”
Douglas now sets its sights on another quadrant foe as they welcome Rawlins (10-4, 2-0) to Converse County Friday night. The Outlaws have won seven of their last eight games and won all three meetings between the two teams last season.
The Cats will then travel to face Burns on Saturday. With just seven games remaining, including three within the quadrant, Plumb and his team still feel confident about where their abilities have the potential to take them.
“The only people that really beat us are ourselves,” Townsend said. “We were with Buffalo. We were with Newcastle. It’s just those mistakes that we’ve made that have pushed things in their favor.”