High flying A.J. Gaines finishes off a dunk Friday night during the Desert Dogs 132-116 blowout of the Ohio Cardinals. Gaines averaged 27 point per game for the series and had 7 huge dunks for the Dogs.
Photo by Lou Martin

After blowing out the Ohio Cardinals, 132-116, Friday evening, the Nevada Desert Dogs were off their game Saturday night, falling 101-99 to the visitors.

The weekend continued to showcase the new members of the Dogs. The Dogs began the season 0-4 before A.J. Gaines and Jelan Kendrick joined the squad. Since then, the Desert Dogs have gone 5-5, splitting series with their competitors. Gaines averaged 27.5 points per game against the Cardinals and brought huge responses from the hometown fans on each of his massive dunks. Gaines had four dunks in Friday night’s game and two in Saturday’s finale. Gaines has become a fan favorite with his flying abilities as he has brought motivation to the Dogs.

The Desert Dogs led 29-22 late in Friday’s first period before the Cardinals ended the period with 11-2 run to lead 33-31. Kendrick had 9 points in the period to lead the Dogs. The Dogs took back the lead early in the second period as Gaines and Dominic Schuler put up 10 and 11 points respectively giving the Desert Dogs a 72-63 advantage after one half of play.

The Dogs Jonathon Lloyd and Leon Sutton hit three balls to give the Dogs a 78-65 lead early in the third period. The Dogs brought a huge roar from the crowd midway through the period as they put up four straight dunks but could not shake the Cardinals who hit three straight three balls to cut the Dogs lead to 92-85. The Dogs finished the period on an 8-1 run to give the hometown team a 100-86 advantage after three periods.

The Cardinals to 102-96 early in the fourth period before Coach Paul Mokeski called timeout to regroup. The Dogs went on a 15-9 run to up their lead to double digits 117-105 with 5:23 remaining in the game. Six straight points from Gaines, two dunks, kept the Cardinals at bay 123-112. Lloyd hit seven of the Dogs 8 points to make the final score 132-116.

In addition to 28 points from Gaines, Kendrick added 24 points, Lloyd had 17 points and Sutton and Terrel Evans chipped in 15 points each to lead a balanced attack.

Saturday’s rematch was a different story as the Dogs came out flat managing only 23 points in the first period of play but still led 23-22. The Cardinals took the lead at the break 51-47 behind the unstoppable Jesse Hardin. Hardin had 13 points at the break. Gaines had 16 points to lead the Dogs. The Dogs trailed 81-75 after three periods. Hardin put up 15 points to lead the Cardinals. The Dogs finally caught and led the Cardinals 90-89 with 4:40 remaining in the game. Gaines brought the crowd to their feet with a huge dunk to give the Dogs a 3 point advantage. The Cardinals called time to regroup with 1:30 on the clock.

It was Richie Gordon time as he hit 14 points in the period including the last 5 points to give the Cardinals a 100-97 lead. Schuler did not take a three ball with seconds remaining but scored from underneath to make the final score 101-99.

As in last week’s games against Albany, the Desert Dogs could have made a statement sweeping both league contenders, but fell short late in the games. The Cardinals sit a 11-8 in league play and the Dogs are sixth at 5-9.

The Dogs will have to make their move if they wish to make the playoffs. The Dogs go on a four game road trip beginning next Friday facing Vancouver on March 17 and 18 before facing league-leader Yakima on March 24 and 26. A sweep by the Dogs could reshuffle the league standings and put the Dogs in good position going down the stretch.