Rangers survive scare from Thacher in NHS
by Jesse Phelps
The Thacher Toads came so close to taking down Nordhoff in
an early season matchup of local basketball teams Thursday night
in the opening round of the 60th Nordhoff Basketball Tournament.
"My freshman year we lost (to Nordhoff) by 30. My sophomore
year, we lost by 20. This is the best performance of a Thacher
team, since, I think the year before I got here," said Chris
Willoughby, minutes after he and the rest of the Thacher boys'
varsity basketball team walked off the court with an improbably
close defeat at the hands of the Rangers, 52-48.
If Willoughby sounded happy with the loss, don't blame him. He'd
just had the game of his life as the Toads narrowly missed an
upset of monumental proportions. Nordhoff has the much larger
student body and doesn't bear the burden of academic qualifications
which can severely limit availability of athletic talent to a
school such as Thacher.
Willoughby led all scorers on the night, pouring in a career-high
24, including four three-pointers. He and first-year starting
center Will Johnson combined to give Thacher an inside presence
on defense as well. Willoughby blocked five shots and Johnson
added 12 boards.
This was Nordhoff's tournament and the Rangers entered the game
as the clear favorite. The Toads played a zone defense, which
kept the Ranger set offense stagnant for much of the night.
Nordhoff got much of its offense from transition off of steals
and defensive rebounds. Ranger point guard Garret Stroup continually
drove the length of the court in the second half, scoring on
a variety of athletic lay-ups to keep pace with the Thacher three-point
With 43 seconds left in the third quarter, and Nordhoff clinging
to a 34-32 lead, Stroup buried a three. But Willoughby answered
from downtown as the third quarter buzzer sounded and Thacher
was within two at the start of the fourth quarter.
After a bucket from T.J. Murphy, Johnson got an offensive board
and fed Willoughby. Two Sullivan freethrows tied the game but
Stroup got free for a layup to put the rangers ahead by a basket.
The teams continued to trade hoops. Thacher senior point guard
Brenton Sullivan's three pulled Thacher to within a point with
just under six minutes remaining but Murphy answered with a three
Neither team could grab control until the final few minutes.
After opening a five-point lead, the Rangers stiffened defensively,
forcing three jump balls and several Thacher turnovers. In the
final minute, Thacher was forced to foul.
Micah Nylander hit two of four freethrows to put Nordhoff up
six but then committed his fifth foul as Thacher's Graham Douds
launched a three point shot. Douds went to the line and made
two of three shots, but with only one second left, Thacher never
got another chance to tie it.
"We did pretty well out there," said Thacher Coach
Jayson Carney, in a massive understatement.
The Toads now have some time off for the holidays before resuming
play versus Cate on Jan. 10. Nordhoff plays next at the Fillmore
Tournament from Dec. 12-14.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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STROUP FLIES THROUGH THE AIR in the 60th annual Nordhoff Boys'
Basketball Tournament. Nordhoff slid by Thacher, 52-48, but lost
in the semifinals to Dos Pueblos, 54-36, to take fourth place.