The NIAA Regional Basketball Tournament is still a month away but Friday night’s game between Las Vegas and Clark had a playoff atmosphere to it.
With head coach Sean Miller of No. 1 ranked Arizona on hand as well as assistants Damon Stoudamire and Joe Pasternick to watch Wildcat junior forward Re’Kwon Smith, it was Wyoming-bound forward Diontae Jones who stole the show, scoring a game-high 25 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Chargers, rated No. 5 in the state by MaxPreps, to a 60-55 victory over No. 4 Las Vegas.
“He stepped up and he was a man,” Beeten said of Smith, who scored nine of his points in the third quarter when the Chargers pulled away to a 44-37 lead.
The 6-foot-7 Smith, an explosive leaper with a nice shooting touch, didn’t disappoint, scoring a team-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers but it wasn’t enough to overcome some sloppy passing and poor shooting by the Wildcats (14-3), who struggled against Clark’s 2-3 zone.
“It’s a huge win,” Chargers coach Chad Beeten said. “They’re one of the best teams in the city.”
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Even more impressive was the fact the Chargers (11-5) did it without their second leading scorer, senior swingman Sherron Wilson, who is sidelined for a month with a broken foot.
“We had other guys step up, and that’s part of building a team and part of building a bench. Those guys who came that came off the bench are freshmen and sophomores who stepped up.”
Junior guard Carter Olsen (11) also scored in double figures for Clark while impressive 6-6 sophomore forward Tyler Bey had 10 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Wildcats.