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Mustangs win two at home

January 27, 2018 GMT

NEEDLES — The varsity Mustangs basketball team picked up two NIAA wins at home last week: over Laughlin 67-20 on Jan. 16 and over The Meadows 51-41 on Jan. 20; beginning the final push to the state playoffs.

The goal, explained Coach Pat ‘Woody’ Woodburn, is to enter at third seed. The seemingly unassailable Democracy Prep (Agassi) sits in No. 1 with a 10-0 record; The Meadows is at 7-3 after losing to Needles; Lake Mead, which Needles was set to play on the road Jan. 23, is at 7-4. The local boys are currently fourth with a 6-4 league record, 14-6 overall. Fourth place faces Democracy Prep in the opening round of the playoffs Jan. 16 and 17.

Needles faces Democracy Prep in regular season play Jan. 26 in Las Vegas then returns to The Corral to host Mountain View, currently fifth, at 3 and 6 p.m. Jan. 30; Lincoln County, seventh but never count Lincoln out, at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2; and Adelson, sixth, at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

After Saturday’s game Woodburn introduced the Mustangs’ two beefy guys: sophomore Semaj Howell and junior Doogie Harvey; with the observation that they were a pleasure to coach and were going to be carrying the load after Needles graduates six seniors this spring. Both stand around six feet three inches and weigh around 200 pounds and are known for their prowess in the post on both offense and defense. “When we played Calvary they were able to shut down their big guy,” said Woodburn.

“We played well on offense and our defense really held them to a lower score in the third and fourth quarters,” Harvey said of the games against The Meadows. Added Howell: “We got off to a good start in the first quarter. The crowd moved up the pace, made us push harder. When we slowed down we made turnovers.”

Neither of the two pushed points in the post against The Meadows. Asked why, Harvey explained it was strategic: setting screens for Needles’ guards to shoot proved more effective.

Needles led all the way: up 12-7 after one, 25-17 at the half, 37-21 after three quarters. The Meadows put in an all-out effort in the last half of the final stanza, playing a full-court defensive press and double teaming any Needles player to gain possession of the ball. The rally whittled the local boys’ lead down from 20 to five before they found a cure to win by 10. Harvey agreed that Needles had some trouble with those tactics and their effects on timing, noting sometimes players weren’t where they needed to be to complete plays. He expected to work on press-breaking and looking for the open guy during practice this week. Double teaming, he explained, could create opportunities as it meant there would always be one guy open. “That allows to make room for our center to get an easy shot,” he said.

The fast-paced game was a defensive battle from start to finish. Dillon Darrow put the first two points on the board from the free throw line about a minute and a half into the first quarter. He went on to score 12, as did Jayden Yeager. Defending in order against height The Meadows was able to hold Trey Tsosie to nine. Gilman Jenkins and Irving Juarez scored eight apiece.

Allen Friedman scored 13 for The Meadows, the only Las Vegas player to reach double digits.

“To The Meadows’ credit they worked really hard, especially in the last half of the final quarter,” said Woodburn.

He said he felt the game was well officiated and expressed pride in all his players. “Our shooting is getting better,” he observed, noting the boys only shot 22 percent in this season’s first game against Lake Mead. The free throw percentage, with Jenkins shooting 100 percent, Darrow and Juarez shooting 80, is showing improvement as well.

“If we beat Lake Mead on Tuesday we’ll be in the top three,” said Woodburn. “Then we have four battles to go; three of them at home. The last thing we want to do is play Agassi in the first round.”

Woodburn’s career total, as of Saturday night, stood at 1,198 wins.

Tsosie led all scoring with 15 against Laughlin on Tuesday. Juarez scored 11, Trevyn Diaz nine, Jenkins and Yeager eight each. Laughlin’s Diego Trujilo and Brandon Nelson scored six each for the Cougars.

The game looked like it could go either way after the first quarter: Laughlin’s boys hung tough to score a dozen against Needles’ 15. The Mustangs defense seemed to solve all the Cougars offensive puzzles for the rest of the game, holding them to three points in the second and fourth quarters and two in the third while putting 20, 18 and 14 on the board for the 67-20 win.