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Another one for Turlock
Bulldogs slow down Pitmans big man, notch 14-1 series edge
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Turlock High’s Ashton Richardson, left, puts in a layup over Pitman High guard Zach Olsen in a 57-45 win at Bulldog Arena on Friday night. - photo by CHHUN SUN/The Journal
Turlock High junior center Connor Pearson had probably the toughest, energy-draining assignment in his team’s annual meeting against crosstown rival Pitman High on Friday night.
He had to defend Dominic Romeo.
Romeo is one of the league’s MVP candidates, not to mention that he weighs about 45 pounds heavier and stands maybe an inch or two taller than Pearson, whose effort doesn’t usually show in a box score.
But Pearson stuck with the task all night, and look what he got in return: A quiet 16-point performance by Romeo en route a 57-45 win for Turlock in front of a nearly sellout crowd at Bulldog Arena. It gives the Bulldogs some confidence heading into their season finale at Buhach Colony High on Wednesday before the playoffs begin.
“That guy never quits,” Pearson said about Romeo, who was always attacking the hoop but had a woeful 8-for-19 night from the foul line. “He’s a really good player. All you gotta do is be aggressive the whole time. You might get tired but you gotta keep going.”
That was the Bulldogs’ theme of this night: To keep going, and it was more than enough to increase the series lead to 14-1.
They found themselves taking control in the third quarter, thanks to star player Travis Souza and his ability to nail important shots. He contributed seven of his game-high 25 points in that period, with the Bulldogs going on a 14-2 scoring spree that seemingly knocked the wind out of the Pitman players.
“We tried not to take quick shots,” Souza said. “Anything over the 15 seconds on the shot clock [was unnecessary]. And we just played defense.”
The Bulldogs were facing a Pitman squad that suffered a 70-63 loss to Atwater High — a nonplayoff team — two nights earlier. So the Pride (15-10, 6-4 CCC) were looking for a confidence-booster, and things were looking good for them in the first two quarters.
 They picked up a 10-point lead late in the first quarter after Romeo carried most of the scoring load. And Pitman made it interesting in the following period, exchanging leads with the Bulldogs seven times before holding on to a 26-25 advantage at halftime.
Then came Souza and the Bulldogs (21-5, 9-2 CCC). Anthony Hubbard came off the bench — he gave up his starting spot to allow Jeffery Severson to shine on Senior Night, which also marked the last regular-season home game for Toby Frutoz (did not play), Eric Wetzel (eight points) and Souza — to score 14 points, nine of them in the second half.
Oh, there was also Pearson.
“Connor did a great job” on Romeo, Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot said. “He muscled him up. The referees let them play. They were banging on each other. That was our goal and that was to keep him from getting easy looks of the basket.”
On this night, Pearson gladly accepted his two points.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.