Brett Dougherty wasn't going to let Papillion-La Vista slip from the upper tier of Class A boys basketball.
The Northwest Missouri State recruit, a 6-foot-6 senior, has posted the best numbers in his three years as a starter for the Monarchs, who were 22-4 last season and are 15-3 and ranked second in the Top 10 after Saturday's win over then-No. 1 Omaha Central.
“We go as Brett goes, as far as his toughness inside,” Monarchs coach Jason Ryan said. “He's averaging close to a double-double (19.2 points and 9.3 rebounds a game). He's put himself in position to be one of the better players in the state.”
Because Dougherty also has been through the lows, a 3-20 season when he started as a sophomore, the highs mean a lot.
“Sophomore year we were second to last in the point standings (with a 3-20 record),” Dougherty said. “I feel it's been good for me to see both sides and appreciate the success we have now. Some might get used to it, but that hasn't been the case.”
Ryan came to Papillion-La Vista from Bellevue East for Dougherty's junior season. The coach said they hit it off from the start.
“It's tough for a lot of players when a new coach comes in, but he didn't resist change at all,” Ryan said. “I knew Brett before, and it's pretty easy when a guy comes to work every day. He does everything right off the floor, and that translates to what happens on the floor.
“He has high character, is a great student in the classroom. The kids like playing with him. Sometimes he's too nice.”
Since last season, Ryan said, Dougherty's greatest improvement has been mentally. He's more confident. His demeanor is on an even keel.
“You watch him play and you don't know if he has four or 24 points. He goes about his business,” the coach said. “He's extremely unselfish. He could do a lot more on the perimeter because he's capable of knocking down the 17-, 18-foot jump shots, but for us to be successful he has to play with his back to the basket and shoot in the paint.
“He's a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams. He's become a better passer out of the post and is much better with his right hand.”
Dougherty, for the second straight season, is working with new faces in the playing rotation. Last season it was Trey Moore from North Platte and Spencer Lewis from Bellevue East. This time, it's Nate Maloley and Keenan Neelon from Westside, Ja'Pree Murry from Atlanta and Tyler Dougherty, his younger brother.
“I think we've really been fortunate with having guys who got along,” Brett said. “I already knew most of those guys. We have a really close team and there's no problems. This year I think we came together a little faster.”
Tyler, a 6-5 sophomore, got to the Monarch varsity a year faster than his older brother by earning a spot on last year's team.
“He's another good rebounder,” Brett said. “We find each other out there every once in awhile, and I think our parents like it when they get to see two of their kids on the court at the same time.”
Dougherty has ties to Northwest Missouri through his father, Greg, a Bearcat graduate. The elder Dougherty is a special education teacher in the Papillion-La Vista schools, and Brett's mother, Corinne, works for Union Pacific.
“I had some other schools looking at me, but I like the program, and the coach (Ben McCollum) is a great guy who went there,” Brett said. “Being in a smaller town isn't a bad thing, either. You can stay focused on school and sports.”
His aim for the rest of the season is to have the Monarchs finish strong. They have games against No. 10 Millard North at home on Friday and at Lincoln Southeast on Saturday.
“We keep getting congratulated about beating Central,” Dougherty said, “but we have to put it behind us and focus on our next game.”
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