Tiger boys paid tribute to Hailey Vaughn

Ron Borges

After a fast and furious start, the Dunsmuir boys basketball team (9-18, 6-3) nearly let victory slip away in Tuesday’s 73-68 win over visiting Mercy in the first round of the Division VI?playoffs.

“This was a great team effort,” Kale Riccomini said. “We got into foul trouble and our bench came in and didn’t miss a beat.”

The night saw several tributes to Hailey Vaughn, the basketball player who died last week. Shirts were on sale, the players wore sweatbands with her name on them and sophomore Christian DeLeon danced in honor of her.

The Tigers built a 13 point lead at the half before letting the Warriors get within five late in the fourth quarter.

With two minutes to go, Mercy cut the lead to five and Dunsmuir had gone cold, scoring four points in the first six minutes.

Nate Gonzales hit seven of his 11 points with under two minutes left to vault Dunsmuir into the second round.

“All that was running through my mind was don’t miss and think make,” Gonzales said.

Mercy couldn’t utilize their taller post players in the first half with the Tigers double teaming them. Matt Norton was too quick for the Warriors, as he slashed his way to 14 of his game high 16 points in the first half.

“We shot the lights out of the gym,” Riccomini said.

The Norton Brothers, Matt and Barry, and Erin Kirch combined for 12 points, giving the Tigers a 13 point advantage.

Kirch fought through the twin towers to score 14 and LT Hisey made four treys for 12 points.

Champion Christian outscored the visiting Tigers by 17 in the first period in Friday’s 67-51 loss in the second round at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico.

Riccomini said the players were in awe of playing at Pleasant Valley because the size of the gymnasium and the atmosphere of the playoffs.

“They jumped on us early,” Riccomini said. “I was pleased how the kids didn’t give up and kept with it.”

The Tigers cut the lead to eight in the fourth quarter, but spent so much energy that the tank was empty.

Jake McIntyre, 17, and Norton, 11, were able to drive to the basket late in the game to get most of their points.

The Tigers had a transformation this season, going from the bottom of the barrel in the preseason to tied for second in the Evergreen League.

Riccomini said, “They weren’t a cohesive unit in the beginning, but with some focus and desire, they started playing the game of basketball.”

The Tigers’ only two wins in the preseason came against Providence Christian of Orland.

After a two point win against Surprise Valley, they gained a lot of confidence with four straight victories, three in the final seconds over Butte Valley, Happy Camp and Big Valley.

“They used what they learned playing upper division teams to make the push in league,” Riccomini said.