RENO — Diontae Jones’ eyes started to water, and Clark’s senior forward did his best to hide his emotions, covering his face with his jersey.
Unlike a year ago, though, these were tears of joy.
The Chargers put on a defensive clinic Saturday, holding Elko to 26 percent shooting from the field en route to a 43-25 victory in the final of the Division I-A state boys basketball tournament at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center.
It is the first state title for Clark (25-5) since 1993 and the school’s fifth overall.
“I don’t think we could play any better defensively than that,” fourth-year coach Chad Beeten said. “We’ve had a lot of great defensive efforts, but that was probably the culmination of it all. And that’s the way it should be in the state finals. The culmination should be playing your best.”
The Chargers squandered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead against Desert Pines in last year’s state final and dropped a 59-57 heartbreaker, but they made sure there were no comebacks this time.
Using an aggressive 2-3 zone defense for most of the final three quarters, Clark jumped to a 22-8 halftime lead and maintained a double-digit lead for the entire second half.
Colby Jackson paced the Chargers with 14 points and four assists, and backcourt mate Carter Olsen supplied 13 points. Sherron Wilson added eight points and four rebounds for Clark, and the Wyoming-bound Jones finished with six points and five rebounds.
“We’ve been working toward this all year,” Olsen said. “We were all so upset we missed that game last year. The minute we came to the locker room, we said, ‘Next year, we’ve got to get it. We’ve got to get that championship.’ Coming out here, everything was building up to this.”
The Indians, who shot nearly 50 percent from the field in a 63-47 win over Desert Pines on Friday, made only 9 of their 35 attempts against the Chargers. Elko (25-4) missed its first 12 3-pointers and finished 3-for-22 from behind the 3-point line.
Nathan Klekas led the Indians with nine points (nine below his season average) on 4-for-12 shooting. Brian Pearson was a nonfactor one day after he had nine rebounds and 11 blocked shots against Desert Pines, as the 6-foot-9-inch Alaska Anchorage signee managed only five points, three rebounds and one block.
“There was a point there that I just knew that they couldn’t score on us,” Beeten said. “We knew that they weren’t going to play a fast game. So, we knew it was going to be kind of a grind-it-out game. We figured if we made it a half-court game and they’re going to have to score against our athletes and our toughness and our length, we were going to be in decent shape.”
The Indians were looking for their first state title since 1981, and the nerves showed from the start.
Clark held Elko without a field goal for the first 5 minutes, 30 seconds, as it snagged a 12-1 lead. Elko then went the first 5:49 of the second quarter without making a shot, and Jackson’s corner 3 at the buzzer gave the Chargers a 14-point advantage at halftime.
Cody Nielsen ended the Indians’ drought from behind the 3-point line with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter to cut Clark’s lead to 24-13, but that was as close as Elko got.
Wilson finished with his left hand in the lane over Pearson to put the Chargers up 35-20, and Jackson’s finger roll with 3:52 to go gave Clark a 37-23 cushion.
“We worked hard every day in practice and didn’t take any days off,” Jackson said. “Last year’s experience helped us a lot. Last year we had the same predicament … but this time we stayed focused.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.