Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 | 11 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer glance over both the Sunrise and Sunset regional playoff brackets. Will there be any surprises or teams other than Bishop Gorman, Canyon Springs and Foothill representing Southern Nevada next week in Reno?
The Clark High basketball team had been in this spot before against Desert Pines with a championship on the line.
So, during a timeout midway through the fourth quarter today in the Division I-A Southern Region championship game, and with surely most in the Clark huddle thinking about when they blew a double-digit lead late in last year’s state championship game to Desert Pines, coaches reminded players of a message they’ve been preaching all season: Finish.
They led by eight points with about four minutes remaining — an advantage similar to the one they squandered in the state game last year.
“Every time we broke out of the huddle, (we chanted) ‘Finish on me, finish on three,” said Diontae Jones, Clark’s senior captain.
That’s exactly what the Chargers did, avenging a pair of defeats to Desert Pines last season with a 54-48 victory to capture the region title and the No. 1 seed in next week’s state tournament in Reno.
Desert Pines also advances to state, meaning a rematch of today’s back-and-forth contest — one with physical play virtually from start to finish — is likely in the cards.
“We made enough plays tonight, and they didn’t,” Clark coach Chad Beeten said. “But that’s a darn good team. I’m sure we will be seeing them again next week.”
Clark started to pull away at the end of the third quarter, using eight straight points from Carter Olsen, including a pair of 3-pointers, to grab a 41-39 lead entering the final eight minutes.
Clark opened the fourth quarter on an 8-2 scoring run to pad its lead, starting with a 3-pointer from Colby Jackson and consecutive buckets on the interior from Jordan Turner. That gave Clark a big enough cushion to win the championship. One down, one to go.
Winning the region was one hurdle Clark needed to clear in its rebirth but clearly not the final step. That comes next week at state.
“It’s great to finally get something we have wanted since last year,” Jones said. “But we know this isn’t the only goal. We have to win two more games (at state). Everyone is ready for next week.”
Beeten, in his fourth season as coach, has taken Clark to new heights each season. They went from not making the playoffs or winning double-digit games before he was hired to one of the state’s top teams.
That claim could be official next Saturday in Reno — well, only if the Chargers continue to finish.
Olsen led Clark with 17 points, Jones scored 12 and Jackson contributed 11.
For Desert Pines, freshman Capri Uzan led the way with 15 points, including eight in a 40-second stretch in the first quarter. Nate Grimes and Coby Myles each scored nine for the Jaguars.