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April 19, 2014

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high school basketball:

Desert Pines coach, players grab victory in return to Eldorado

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Leila Navidi

Desert Pines head coach Mike Uzan yells to his players during a basketball game at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.

Desert Pines Defeats Eldorado

Julian Jacobs of Desert Pines shoots the ball during a game at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

When the Desert Pines High basketball team jumped out to a 14-point advantage Thursday midway through the second quarter against host Eldorado, Jaguars coach Mike Uzan knew the lead wouldn’t be safe.

After all, he is more than familiar with the talent and determination of the Eldorado players.

Uzan is in his first year coaching at Desert Pines after spending the past 11 years on staff at Eldorado, his alma mater. Eldorado eventually rallied to take the lead with 3:38 remaining, but Desert Pines pulled out a hard-fought 70-67 victory in Uzan’s first game against his former team.

Changing in the visiting locker room, sitting on the opposite bench and competing against a core group of players he’s coached since they were in elementary school was clearly awkward for Uzan.

“Those kids over there (at Eldorado) are tough. Those Eldorado boys are a good group of guys,” said Uzan, who said his teaching post was eliminated at Eldorado because of budget cuts. “They are just young and they kept fighting all the way through. I’m proud of them and even more proud of our guys.

“Our guys stepped up to the challenge of coming into this place. It’s a tough place to play in.”

Uzan was Eldorado’s head coach the last four years, leading them to three Sunrise Region championship games and the 2009 regional crown. While he will always cherish the memories of what he built at Eldorado, Thursday’s win is an important step in the right direction in his next quest.

Three former Eldorado players are leading the way.

Thomas Hooper , who played at Eldorado last year, had a game-high 27 points in Thursday’s win. Junior point guard Julian Jacobs, who is widely considered one of the Las Vegas Valley’s top players, and guard Donavin Wright, each also followed their coach from Eldorado to Desert Pines.

“(The Eldorado players) are like my brothers, you know,” said Jacobs, who battled foul trouble all night in finishing with seven points. “But, once you get on the court, you are playing to win. It’s a competition. Once we got on the court, we only had one focus and that was to win the game.”

Jacobs was a non-factor for parts of the game and fouled out in the fourth quarter. But Thomas was clutch all night, scoring six straight points to break a 61-all tie with less than three minutes remaining to give Desert Pines the lead for good.

“We needed Tommy to have a good game and he did. It was a confidence builder for him,” Jacobs said.

While the coach and his players admit it was tough facing Eldorado, the ability to fight through the emotions will only make them stronger the rest of the season — and in years to come.

“This is about us now. This is about DP,” Uzan said.

Guard Da’Quon Thrower had 21 points to lead Eldorado’s comeback and Markeith Floyd added 19 points.

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