Turlock High’s boys basketball team secured its post-season fate a week ago, earning a spot in the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoff bracket as the third team from the Central California Conference. But even with that knowledge, the Bulldogs (6-4 CCC, 18-9 overall) entered Tuesday’s cross town rival game and CCC season finale against Pitman High as if a post-season berth depended on it.
As for the Pride (2-8 CCC, 13-12 overall), whose playoff dreams ended long ago, they stepped onto Turlock’s home court determined to go out with a bang.
Pitman’s play in the first half of Friday’s game was less than explosive, however, as Turlock led by double digits for the majority of the first and second periods, but the third quarter saw the Pride stoke their flame and pull within three points of Turlock’s lead by the start of the fourth period. Unfortunately for Pitman, the second half effort wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs completed a season sweep of their rival with a 55-48 victory.
“Anytime it’s a rival game you can’t look at records, I mean that’s what makes Cal vs. Stanford so intriguing because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s the same thing here,” Turlock head coach Doug Cornfoot said. “If you look at Pitman’s record, yeah, they haven’t won very many games, but the games they’ve lost they’ve been in them, for the most part.”
Pitman led early in the first period before three consecutive three-point plays —a Cameron Love trey, a Demsen McFaddin trey, and a McFaddin triple bonus—put Turlock in the lead position for good. From there, the Bulldogs outscored the Pride 21-12 in the final 11 minutes of the first half.
But Pitman entered the second half reinvigorated as Cyle Williams helped his team outscore Turlock 14-4 in the third quarter with a pair of treys.
“They hit a couple of shots and kind of panicked up, but we calmed back down and were able to do what we wanted to do,” Turlock senior Kenny Fraser said.
The second-half surge didn’t last long for Pitman, however, as Fraser dominated the boards and found the bucket often. Fraser ended the game with 24 points, 16 of which came in the second half, and 10 rebounds for the double-double.
“I thought we played well in stretches. When we slowed it down and worked the clock and let our big guys get open from inside out, we played well,” Cornfoot said. “Then in the third quarter we lost that rhythm. We started forcing shots, taking threes too fast, and we got out of that rhythm of making it work on defense and that’s what got them back in the game.”
While the Bulldogs had their fair share of success on both offense and defense, their greatest advantage was in the free-throw game as they went 20 for 30 from the line in comparison to the Pride who went 3 for 8.
McFadden finished second in scoring for Turlock with 14 points. Pitman’s Branson Garcia and Gurvinder Uppal finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Williams finished the game with 15 second-half points.
“Any time you get a win against any team in our league, it’s a good win,” Cornfoot said. “We finished in third place. Our goal was first, but we made it to the playoffs, so we met our second goal. Now we wait to see who we play and where we go.”
Turlock will find out who it’s post-season opponent will be today, though they're expecting the road through the playoffs to be difficult regardless.
“We’ll be, probably, in Sacramento and it’s going to be physical. We played up there three or four times this year, so hopefully, we learned from that,” Cornfoot said. “Hopefully, we’ll be prepared to go into a hostile environment and compete.”
“We’re just looking to win as many games possible. It’s a new season now, we’re playing new teams we haven’t played before, so we've got to get ready as well as we can,” Fraser said.