BY BARRY WONG
With a 54-48 win over Desert Pines in the Southern Region Championship on Saturday night, Clark earned a title and a higher seed at the state tournament. Most importantly, they earned some confidence.
“It’s just kind of getting over a hump,” Clark head coach Chad Beeten said.
Desert Pines topped Clark both in the Southern Region Championship (63-59) and in the state championship game (59-57) last season. The Chargers were up by 12 points in the fourth quarter of the state title game, before the Jaguars roared back to steal away the championship.
“It feels good to win, but it’s not over yet,” Clark junior point guard Colby Jackson said. “No more celebrations, it’s time to get ready for state.”
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A Jackson 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, followed by an assist to senior Jordan Turner helped increase the Clark lead from 41-39 to 46-39. For the next 7:15 of the quarter, the two teams combined for only 17 points, as points were a premium the rest of the way.
A Ra’meake Keith layup pulled Desert Pines to within 52-48 with 12.9 seconds left, but Clark sophomore Darius Jackson hit two free throws to seal the win.
“It’s just about resilience and being tough,” Beeten said. “Sometimes, they need to learn by doing it to make sure we finish games.”
Senior guard Carter Olsen led Clark with 15 points, including two big 3-pointers late in the third quarter. Senior forward Diontae Jones, who has signed to play at Wyoming, added 15 points while Jackson finished with 11.
Freshman guard Capri Uzan led the Jaguars with 15 points, including an impressive eight points on three consecutive Desert Pines possessions in the first quarter.
Clark will play Lowry at 12:40 p.m. at the University of Nevada-Reno’s Lawlor Events Center next Friday, while Desert Pines will face Elko at 4 p.m. If both teams win, they’ll battle in the state championship for the second straight season on Saturday at 12:45 p.m.