For years the St. Thomas More boys' basketball team has been a thorn in the side of the Douglas Patriots. Coach Travis Miller's teams had only beaten STM once in six previous seasons during his tenure at Douglas.
Tuesday night, that win number grew, and in a big way.
The Patriots flew by the Cavs on their way to a 76-56 victory in Box Elder, in a game that featured three Douglas dunks.
"It’s a good win for us," Miller said. "Obviously, they’re at the top. Anytime you can beat them it’s fun to be able to do that. Hopefully it means we’re going in the right direction."
STM coach Dave Hollenbeck certainly thinks the Patriots are heading in the right direction, as he was very complimentary towards the Douglas effort throughout the night.
"That’s a credit to Douglas; those guys are good. They’re exactly who we thought they were, and this is their year," he said. "I think they’re going to do great things and Travis is a heck of a coach. He does a great job and he’s put together a good team."
It looked like it was going to be a nail-biter at the start of the night, as the two teams exchanged the lead throughout the first quarter. Like a prize fight, both teams were feeling each other out and after eight minutes Douglas led 17-12.
Then, at the start of the second quarter, the Patriots landed the knockout punch.
A 13-0 run started the quarter, and STM didn't score until there was 4:10 remaining in the half.
"We kept doing the same stuff. I think the boys made more of an adjustment than I did," Miller said. "We didn’t change anything defensively or offensively. They just got in their head that they were going to stay in front of their man and play defense the way they should. It gave them a lot of trouble obviously."
The half ended with two dunks on back-to-back possessions for the Patriots, bringing the crowd to its feet and putting the final nail in STM's coffin.
First, Joseph Hannah went by his man at the top of the key and threw down, and on the next possession, Dylan Pourier got a steal and was able to show the athleticism that allowed him to make it to the state meet as a triple jumper when he was only in eighth grade.
"He’s a phenomenal athlete, and he's always been," Miller said of Pourier. "I think he’s always worked hard to hone his skills. He’s done a lot to get better and it’s not just him, we have a lot of guys who worked hard this summer. They saw what we could possibly accomplish and they wanted to make sure that they didn’t waste that as seniors."
Pourier led Douglas with 17 points, while Cetan Big Crow and Dan Hand followed close behind with 16 each.
Caden Casey led the Cavaliers, as well as all scorers, with 18.
Douglas didn't let up in the third quarter, leading 39-21 at the half it scored the first 10 points of the quarter, and ended the third with a 63-34 lead.
STM outscored the Patriots 22-13 in the fourth.
"It was expected. If we don’t play harder than that and we turn the ball over, it’s probably going a minimum of 20 (point deficit) or worse, and at times it was worse," Hollenbeck said. "We just have to take care of the ball. We have to get stronger and we have to get tougher, we have some guys that are going to have to pick it up a little more for us."
Douglas is now 2-0 with a average margin of victory of 26.5 points per game. It takes on Sturgis next, which has emerged as another possible favorite in the Black Hills Conference, and is 1-0 after beating Belle Fourche 65-52 Tuesday night.
The Patriots are starting to turn some heads, but Miller said he knows he has to remind his team that it's only two games as it navigates the early portion of the schedule.
"I think you try to keep them focused on the next game, and that’s not easy to do with high school kids," he said. "You just have to remind them over and over that Sturgis is all that matters right now. We have to take care of business on Friday because if we overlook anyone we’ll be in trouble."
STM is now 0-2 and has lost both games by an average of 23.5 points.
Hollenbeck said he was disappointed that his young team didn't show many signs of improvement after a 60-33 loss to Sioux Falls Washington to open the season.
"I thought, if we could get better from the first game to the second game, win or lose, that would be beneficial to us. We didn’t get any better, so that’s frustrating, and that’s on me I guess," he said. "If our point guards can’t handle the basketball it doesn’t matter what offense we run or what we’re doing, we have to take care of the basketball. If we’re going to turn it over, we’ll be in big trouble, that’s just the game."
Douglas and Sturgis meet Friday in Sturgis at 7 p.m. STM will look to get its first win of the season Friday at 6:30 p.m., when it hosts Alliance, Neb.