Hug, the top seed from the High Desert League, took on Damonte Ranch, the fourth seed from the Sierra League, Tuesday night in a first-round playoff and the host Hawks came out victorious, 84-62.
The two teams met a little over a month ago in early January and the 81-58 Hug victory was similar to the playoff result. In the first matchup, the Mustangs held Hawks center Sam Williams in check by allowing him only six points and five rebounds. However, they were torched by Hug’s senior Jaevis Johnson’s 31 points.
Tuesday's tilt was a bit different in that respect. Williams was able to establish himself in the post to score 23 points and pull down 14 rebounds. Johnson didn’t come close to scoring 31 this time around, but he was Mr. Utility as he scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds, had four steals and three assists.
“I’m proud of our guys," said Damonte Ranch coach Torrey Sheets. “They played hard. We played our best basketball tonight. But they started making a lot of layups on us and we just couldn’t catch up.”
Damonte Ranch (10-11) surprised everyone by leading not only after the first quarter, but at halftime as well.
The fourth seed used a 9-0 run in the opening quarter to push the score to 19-9 with 1:33 left. DRHS’s Matthew Nuthall drained a 3-point shot and converted a layup in that period. Williams ended the opening period with a buzzer-beating six-foot jumper to bring the Hawks to within 20-15.
Hug hung around in the second quarter and ended the half down just two, 35-33.
“We didn’t match their intensity,“ Hug coach Charles Walker said. “They came out on fire and played with a purpose and that put us on our heels. They played smart, took the shots they wanted, and took care of the ball.”
After the first four minutes of the third quarter, the score was tied at 44-44. Williams then dunked the ball to give Hug its first lead since 7-6 in the middle of the first.
That dunk was the spark that got the Hawks’ engine revving. For the next four minutes Hug ran ... And ran, and ran some more. Andrew Johnson led the HHS charge, dishing out several assists in transition with no-look passes. His play led the way for a 21-6 Hawks run that ended the third quarter with Hug on top 65-48.
“We pulled ahead with defense, “said Walker. “We pressured the ball and got some steals. I don’t think we had any steals in the first half.”
The Mustangs pulled to within 75-62 with 4:11 left in the final period but couldn’t score after Nuthall fouled out.
Hug ended the game with another 9-0 run to win and advance.
Walker believes there is still much improvement to be made before his squad's next postseason game.
“We’re a work in progress. We need to communicate on defense better, “he said. “We can improve from top to bottom.”
Williams led Hug with his 23 points and 14 rebounds, Norris Dupree had 18 points while Andrew Johnson scored 16 and finished with 11 assists.
Nuthall paced Damonte Ranch with 20 points. Lance Armstrong and Jeff Turk both had 14 and John Carlson followed with 10 points.
The Hawks advance and will play Douglas on Thursday at Carson High School. Tipoff for the regional semifinal will be 7 p.m.