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Jaguars’ season-ending loss follows familiar script

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By Kevin Carmody

FALCON — In 32 minutes, coach Dan Zinn saw an entire 25-game season play out before his eyes.
His D’Evelyn basketball team fell behind after a 9-0 Falcon run early in the second quarter, spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.
But they couldn’t get clutch shots or stops late in a 75-67 loss in a Sweet 16 playoff game on Feb. 28 at Falcon High School.
“This game was kind of our season,” said Zinn, the Jaguars’ third-year coach. “We seemed to get in trouble early, but we’d fight our way back. We just couldn’t fight all the way back this time.”
Seniors Charles Dinegar and Cole Clifton led the way with 27 and 16 points, respectively, for D’Evelyn (13-12), which used a 13-3 run over the last minute of the third quarter and first 3:16 of the fourth to pull to within 58-54.
Falcon (20-5) responded by scoring 11 of the game’s next 15 points to stretch the lead back to 11, then Dinegar’s 3-pointer from the right wing followed by two free throws — all in a span of 6.5 seconds — made it a 69-63 game with 33.9 seconds left.
The Falcons closed the game out at the free-throw line, hitting five straight shots in the closing seconds to put it away.
For Dinegar, one of the game’s turning points happened when Clifton was called for his fifth foul and sent to the bench with 2:38 left in the third quarter with the Jags trailing 64-54 following two free throws from Brendan LaRose, who led the Falcon with 28 points.
“He’s our biggest energy guy and most intense person,” Dinegar said. “Losing him hurt. We were only down by four and had a lot of hope and momentum out there.”
The teams stayed close early on, with neither separated by more than four points.
Clifton’s drive through the lane and two Dinegar free throws on consecutive possessions to start the second quarter gave D’Evelyn a 16-15 lead.
Then, the familiar scenario took shape.
Falcon scored three straight baskets, all following offensive rebounds, then continued the run with a free throw and a LaRose jumper to give Falcon a 24-16 edge, a lead it never lost again.
Dinegar ended the run on a strong move to the basket to break a scoreless drought of 3:56, but the Jags continued to lag behind — thanks in part to 12 turnovers — and trailed 35-28 heading into halftime.
“We were giving the ball away,” Zinn said. “Against a good team, you can’t afford to do that. They were coming down and executing, and we weren’t.”
The deficit grew to 14 at 55-41 with 1:09 left in the third quarter before D’Evelyn managed to string together a sustained attack, but it was still a 57-45 game after the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter.
Dinegar scored five straight points to start the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 57-50, then a Matt Hansen 3-pointer and Clifton’s one-of-two effort from the free-throw line made it 58-54, the closest D’Evelyn had been since early in the second quarter.
But there would be no epic rally in this one.
“We had a bunch of comeback wins this year, including some against very good teams,” Zinn said. “This time, we weren’t able to pull it off. It’s hard to make it to the Sweet 16, and it’s hard to advance past here.”
D’Evelyn’s recent postseason past includes five season-ending losses in the quarterfinals and three more runs to the quarterfinals.
“That’s a testament to great coaching and hard work over the years,” said Dinegar, who’s headed to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., later this year. “We tend to always be the hardest working team around, one that does the little things right. I’d expect that to continue, even with the seniors we’re losing. There’s a great tradition here.”
In addition to Dinegar and Clifton, the game also was the last for fellow seniors Hansen and James Pennington.