The Douglas Bearcats split their first two games of quadrant play this past weekend.
The team had its strongest showing of the season against a strong Buffalo Bison at home Friday night, beating them 55-43 while maintaining a double-digit lead throughout almost the entirety of the game.
Coming into the game many viewed Douglas as underdogs, but the team looked much better than it’s 4-10 record would suggest, relying on swift and smooth ball movement which lead to open shots and space to drive the lane. The offense has gotten better bit by bit as they have ingratiated senior leader A.J. Yeaman back into the lineup.
“It took awhile to get back into shape and into practice after being away for so long,” Yeaman said of his eight-game absence. “It was long enough to make me a little uncomfortable out there, but now it’s starting to run more smoothly.”
Yeaman didn’t have his usual scoring output but played strong defense to contribute to the team win closing out on shots and grabbing two steals in the process.
Defensively the team changed their approach and successfully threw off the Buffalo offense.
“We mixed in two or three different zones,” Head Coach Cody Plumb said. “Kids were really flying around. We didn’t go into a zone thinking we were going to be lazy, we went with it because we thought Buffalo might struggle against it. It helped pressure them into open shots and we finished with some boards.”
Leading the way scoring in the win was senior Jake Halquist with 15, junior Garet Porter who dropped in 14 and sophomore Kyle Igo who scored an efficient 13 on 75% from the field.
“It was our best game of the year by far,” Plumb said. “We’ve played well at times early in the season, but today we probably had 30 quality minutes out of 32. Early in the season we might play 15 minutes of good basketball then have some mental lapses but tonight we put it all together.”
Unfortunately, the Bearcats followed that performance with what may have been another mental lapse.
Douglas ended up losing their next game to Thermopolis 46-43, putting Thermopolis in first place in the quadrant after the first game.
“I think we may have got too excited from the night before and got hit with a hangover effect,” Plumb said. “We thought maybe we made it a little bit after beating a good Buffalo team, but we didn’t come out ready to play. It’s another good learning moment for a young team like us.”
Yeamen echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I think we went into the Thermopolis game with a big head thinking we were all high and mighty but that showed us you can’t overlook any team you play and take it one game at a time.”
Thermopolis pulled the same strategy as Douglas the game prior, throwing a zone at the Bearcats that Douglas couldn’t penetrate. The team struggled to find consistent offense outside of senior Kyle Gibb who poured in 20 points, the only Bearcat to score double digits.
Overall the team shot a pedestrian 33% from the field.
The good news for the team is that they’re playing their best ball at the right time. In many ways the season starts at quadrant play, and even though they lost to Thermopolis just a couple more made shots and they would be atop the quadrant right now. At 1-1 they have as good a shot as anyone to come out on top as long as they stay focused.
“We can’t overlook Newcastle,” Yeamen said. “Their just as good as any other team that we played; we just need to take it one game at a time.”
Douglas will host the Newcastle Dogies at 7 p.m. Friday.