By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Bulldogs lose thriller to Downey for first league loss
THS boys ball 3
Turlock's Daniel Malagon scores against Downey during the game Wednesday night. The Bulldogs lost 59-58 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Turlock High boys basketball team fell to the Downey High Knights 58-59 in a nail-biter that came down to the last shot on Wednesday. The Bulldogs were not able to overcome a suffocating defense and late game mistakes, resulting in their first league loss.

“I thought it was awesome they kept fighting down to the end,” said head coach Nick Nathanson. “I love that they kept fighting despite some mental errors and missing some easy ones. I loved their resilience and we’ll get them next time.”

THs boys bball 2
Michael Heidelbach attempts to score for the Bulldogs during the game against Downey Wednesday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

In front of a near capacity crowd, the Bulldogs gave their fans something to cheer about early with a quick forced turnover and a three by guard Kyle Ericksen. The Bulldogs were able to take an early lead in the first quarter, but it didn’t last for long as Downey started knocking down shots of their own to capture the lead. The quarter ended with a buzzer beater three by the Knights to give them a 15-10 lead heading into the second quarter.

The second quarter started a little sloppy with both teams committing turnovers on their first possessions. The Knights started doing a full court press defense that got Turlock off their rhythm and affected their ability to execute their halfcourt offense.

“We run the press break every day,” said Nathanson. “The problem is they practice it every day too. It’s much easier when you run it to perfection in practice than when you’re playing against a really athletic, fast team. They’re going to have challenges; I don’t think they turned the ball over too much but it got us out of our rhythm. Downey played a heck of a game; I have nothing but respect for them and we’re looking forward to playing them in a couple of weeks.”

With the Bulldogs down by double digits halfway through the quarter, center Gavin Cox kept them in the game by crashing the offensive glass and blocking shots. Guards Daniel Malagon and Michael Heidelbach started knocking down shots to bring the Bulldogs back. Heidelbach returned the favor by knocking down a buzzer beater three of his own to send the Bulldogs into the half down 26-28.

Turlock boys bball 1
Turlock's Luke Levake looks for an open target during the game Wednesday evening against Downey (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The third quarter picked up where the half left off, with Cox crashing the offensive boards and Malagon and Heidelback doing the heavy lifting in scoring. Ericksen found himself in the facilitator role and was dishing out assists to a lot of the made baskets. The third quarter ended with the teams tied 45-45.

The fourth quarter started with the Bulldogs getting out in the fast break and taking control early. They had a small lead halfway through the quarter, but the Knights’ full court press started giving Turlock trouble again and slowed down their offense. 

The Bulldogs started committing fouls and Downey knocked down their free throws to retake the lead. Malagon was driving to the basket and after not getting the foul call, got a technical foul which gave the Knights control. The Bulldogs kept fighting and a three by Jed Ladine gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead early. But after they committed a foul, the Knights regained the lead. With one more opportunity, the Bulldogs couldn’t knock down the shot at the buzzer and suffered the 58-59 loss.

“When we’re in practice we talk about the details, and how they add up to wins and loss,” Nathanson. “We hadn’t had many close games like this so they didn’t really see that play out in real time and tonight they did. We’ll bounce back and we’ll be better next time.”

Some standout players of the game were Cox with 14 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. He also added eight points and three blocks. Malagon was the leading scorer with 17 points including four three pointers. He also contributed five rebounds and four steals. Heidelback added 14 points as well.

The Bulldogs have a 12-6 record overall and fall to 2-1 in league play, which puts them in third place. Their next league game is at Enochs on Feb. 2.