RENO – Clark High School advanced to Saturday afternoon’s NIAA Division 1-A championship game with a 55-42 win over Lowry on Friday afternoon. But it was a somewhat subdued Chargers team that excited the court at Lawlor Events Center after the win.
That’s because the Chargers, who lost to Desert Pines in last year’s championship game, still have some unfinished business.
“We’re glad to be back but we won’t be satisfied until we finish tomorrow,” Chargers coach Chad Beeten said. “That’s probably a pretty canned answer but at the end of the day, bottom line, we’ve got to win that game tomorrow.”
Clark will face Elko, which rolled past Desert Pines, 63-47, on Saturday at 12:45 in the championship game.
Junior point guard Colby Jackson scored a team-high 14 points and was also a disruptive force on defense deflecting a handful of passes and junior guard Carter Olsen added 13 points, including nine during a key 15-5 run in the third quarter that broke the game open.
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Clark led 22-14 at halftime despite garnering just one field goal in the second quarter with Sherron Wilson ending a seven-minute drought between baskets with a 17-foot jumper. But the Chargers stayed in front thanks to strong defense, an area that Beeten says is becoming a trademark for his improving squad.
“We guard so well and we’ve been playing so well defensively the second half of the season that we’re going to be in anything no matter what,” Beeten said. “It was just a matter of time before we got into a flow offensively and made some buckets.”
Lowry scored the first four points of the third quarter to close within 22-18, but Olsen heated up after that, connecting on two 3-pointers while also sinking three free throws after getting fouled on another attempt, as the Chargers quickly built a 37-23 lead. The Buckaroos never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“Gave us a little comfort zone so we could relax on the offensive end,” Beeten said of Olsen’s nine-point spurt over a three-minute span. “They’re so confident on the defensive end that I knew if we got that little lead, that little pad, that we would be all right.”
The Chargers won handily despite the fact Wyoming-bound forward Diontae Jones scored just one field goal and had just three points entering the final quarter.
“The guys in the locker room, they don’t care who scores, they just want to win the game,” Beeten said. “If (Jones) only gets one field goal and we win the game, we’re in great shape.”
Elko spoiled any chance of a Clark-Desert Pines rematch in the final with a 63-47 victory over the defending champion Jaguars in the second semifinal.
Junior guard Brandon Jenkins scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers in the first half when the Indians used a 19-0 run to build a 29-16 halftime lead.
Brian Pearson, a long-armed senior forward who signed with Alaska-Anchorage and looked good enough to play for a number of Mountain West schools, dominated the paint with 11 blocks to go along with five points.
Desert Pines, which trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half, got as close as 40-34 late in the third quarter on a steal and layup by Malik Davis. But guard Nathan Klekas, son of Elko coach Chris Klekas, responded with a 3-pointer to trigger a 6-0 run by the Indians and Desert Pines never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Klekas finished with a game-high 21 points. Nate Grimes led Desert Pines with 10 points while Davis and Trevor Abdullah each added eight points.