Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Chad Beeten hasn’t watched the tape of this basketball game. Doesn’t care to — not even one minute.
If anyone brought up his Clark High basketball team’s 59-57 loss last season to Desert Pines in the Division I-A state championship game, the coach would hide his disappointment, always trying to be the same up-beat person that makes him popular with his players.
Clark led Desert Pines 24-7 in the first half last February and maintained a 12-point advantage entering the fourth quarter. The Chargers should have been the ones storming the court in celebration at the Orleans Arena, winning the school’s first title since 1993 — a drought where the program slipped from being a power to one of the Las Vegas area’s worst teams.
There should be a championship banner hanging on the Clark gymnasium wall, a championship ring on the finger of Beeten and his players, and talk of winning another title this season to continue a dynasty.
Instead, with a new season about to begin in three weeks, everyone still wants to know: How did Clark blow that lead, not scoring in the final two minutes?
“I still haven’t watched the film. I won’t,” Beeten said. “There is no point. It’s a new team, new season. We do have a ton of returning players, but it’s still a new team.
“I don’t know if I was tough to be around, but for my family I was probably moping around a little bit,” he continued. “Anytime someone brought it up, I had a sickness feeling to my stomach.”
The collapse is motivation for this season’s team to get better — they have to be mentally stronger, play better defense and learn to finish games, Beeten said.
The players don’t need a reminder of what occurred. They were minutes away from the ultimate goal and marking their place in history. It’s something that’s nearly impossible to forget.
Unlike his coach, junior point guard Colby Jackson, one of the area’s top guards, has watched film of the game. Not just once — repeatedly.
“I still think about it everyday. I haven’t got it out of my head yet,” Jackson said. “It won’t get out of my head until we win (state). I’ll flash back in my mind, and it’s the same play happening over and over again.”
Maybe Clark wasn’t ready to win state. Maybe its players were too immature. Whatever the reasoning, Beeten is using the setback as a learning experience.
Above all else, his primary goal with the program is to educate his players — on the court, in the classroom and in life. He proudly boasts that of the nine seniors who have been through the program in his initial three seasons, eight are in college.
“There are definitely some teaching moments,” Beeten said. “It’s doing the little things to complete games and teaching them the game is four quarters. You have to be mentally focused the entire time. That is one of the things we talk about a lot — having mental toughness and mental stability.”
Beeten knows his team this season will again be talented, arguably the best in the classification. He also knows if they don’t become mentally tougher, the same fate could be possible in the last game of the season. Desert Pines is again loaded — the teams appear destined to meet in the finals.
“The mindset this year is to finish,” said Diontae Jones, Clark’s senior forward and captain who is verbally committed to the University of Wyoming. “(Beeten) tells everyone in practice to remember what happened last year. We are looking forward to this year. We know we have to execute the whole game.”
Aside from power Bishop Gorman, the two-time defending Division I state champions with a top-10 preseason national ranking, Clark is arguably the state’s top team. Three years ago, the Chargers lost to Gorman by nine points in a regular-season game — when Gorman started four top-100 recruits, including one player selected last April in the NBA Draft Lottery.
Now in the lower Division I-A because the other athletic programs at Clark struggle, the basketball Chargers are a powerhouse. Last year, they had a 22-game winning streak, and usually had such a comfortable lead by halftime that the backups played the entire second half.
Beeten would like to think the last player on his bench would be a starter on the rest of the league’s teams.
They’ve sent a player to major college basketball the past three years. During the winning streak last year, some of the wins came against the best schools in the Division I classification. But not just victories, wins by double digits.
Not bad for a team that wasn’t even competing for a playoff berth when Beeten, who was out of coaching for six years while opening a real estate business, took over.
“This is definitely where I envisioned the program, but I don’t know if I envisioned turning it around this quickly,” he said. “It was the challenge, quite frankly. That’s the bottom line. Taking a challenge and making it into something.”
Having college-caliber players makes things easier.
Clark’s starting lineup matches up against any team in the state, regardless of classification. In addition to Jones and Jackson, 6-foot-6 senior wing Sherron Wilson has scholarship offers from Air Force and Southern Utah, and has the ability to have success on the perimeter and close to the basket.
Junior guard Carter Olsen, a 6-foot-1 guard, is being recruited by Air Force and is interchangeable with Jackson in the backcourt — both are good shooters, smart with the ball and reliable ball handlers. Junior Ty’Rek Wells, a 6-foot-4 wing, brings athleticism on both ends of the court, and senior Jordan Turner at forward is a team leader primed for a breakthrough season.
And they are built to last.
Wilson’s younger brother, freshman forward Deshawn Wilson, is one of the top ninth-graders on the West coast, and other underclassmen have shown promise.
Still, for as good as the team looks on paper, it learned a valuable lesson last season. Championships are won on the court. And by teams that play from when the ball is tipped until the final whistle.
And a championship is all Clark has left to accomplish.
“I’m just trying to win state and finish my senior year right,” Jones said.