Despite claiming the Central California Conference championship this season, Turlock found itself seeded 15th in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championships when the playoff brackets were released earlier this week, setting up a buy-in game at home against 18th seed Edison High on Friday.
When the Vikings (8-18 overall) finally arrived in Bulldog Arena Turlock’s boys were more than ready to show the Stockton school why they believed they deserved to be in the top tier of the tournament. After opening the game with a nine-point run and owning the boards on defense through all four quarters, the Bulldogs (16-10 overall) issued their statement with a 60-47 win over Edison.
“If you look at our league in the last five years, we’ve been to Arco twice, Golden Valley’s had strong teams, and I think we could compete with anybody. But right now, Sacramento for some reason, you know the powers that be, just don’t have faith in our league or in our top teams,” Turlock head coach Doug Cornfoot said. “We don’t get the respect I think we deserve. To me, if you win your league you should be a top eight seed, at least. Give the league at least a little credit. But that’s out of our control and we play where they tell us to play.”
Turlock’s offense executed its game plan from top-off, regularly dishing the ball to the tandem of Travis Cook and Habib Velasquez who made themselves at home in the paint. Still, Edison managed to closely follow Turlock on the scoreboard, thanks in part to the three-point shooting of Carlnel McGee. By halftime Turlock led by only three points, 27-24.
“We had some breakdowns defensively, but we knew they were going to attack gaps. We weren’t really looking for them to hit a lot of outside shots,” Cornfoot said. “When we rebounded we were able to shut them down. They got their runs on second and third shots.”
Turlock’s big men continued to take it to the Vikings in the second half with Cook, in particular, scoring baskets nearly at will. With Edison’s focus on Cook and Velasquez, shots began to open up for other Bulldogs like Demsen McFaddin, who notched 10 points on the night, all in the second half.
“We knew coming in that middle would be open. And Travis has been our rock all year. He’s a strong league MVP candidate because he controls the boards, finishes inside and is just an all-around solid player,” Cornfoot said.
Cook finished the game with 21 points and Velasquez finished with 14 points, a good chunk of which came at crucial moments at the tail end of the game. After watching Edison tie the game at 31 points apiece midway through the third quarter, Turlock scored baskets in bunches to outscore their opponents 29-16 through the remainder of the game.
Turlock now advances to the first round of the SJS Div. I bracket with a road game scheduled for Wednesday against Sheldon High of Sacramento.
“Sheldon’s good. They’re the number two ranked team in California,” Cornfoot said. “We played Monterey Trail in their league, who came in third or so, and they played them close once and got blown out once. In my mind we should have beat Monterey Trail at Stanislaus in double overtime but we didn’t have Habib.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to show the Section that we are worthy of a higher seed and that we’ve got a pretty good team here,” he added.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.