The Turlock High boys basketball team’s one Central California Conference loss has been avenged – but it didn’t come easy.
In an overtime game, full of spectacular plays, the Bulldogs (14-6, 8-1 CCC) walked away with a 67-64 win over the Golden Valley Cougars (18-3, 8-2 CCC) – previously unbeaten in CCC play – and earned a share of CCC first place in the process.
“It’s a typical give Turlock – Golden Valley game,” said THS coach Doug Cornfoot. “Give and take, highs and lows.”
Golden Valley handed the then-unbeaten Turlock their sole CCC loss this year on Jan. 14, in a 53-50 nail-biter. That game put the Cougars atop the CCC leaderboards, with Turlock just behind in second.
To prepare his players for the big No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup – and a chance at redemption – Cornfoot set out a word for the week: challenge.
“We challenged them to play their best, win or lose, just play your best,” Cornfoot said.
It took the Bulldogs’ best to beat the Cougars, in a game that was a battle from start to finish.
The Bulldogs found themselves down five points early, 7-12, before going on a 16-2 run kicked off by back-to-back buckets from senior guard Ashton Richardson. But GV bounced right back, with a 17-4 run of their own to retake the lead 27-31 at the half.
With 12 big lead changes in the game, most coming on big runs, no team was secure in the lead. Momentum constantly shifted, with the capacity stands erupting first on the Turlock side, then the Golden Valley side, then shouting back and forth at each other.
Turlock trailed by as many as five in the fourth quarter. But they led by three late in the period on the heels of a three-pointer from junior guard Alek Carlson which gave the Bulldogs the lead, followed by an amazing mid-air bounce pass from Carlson to always-excited senior forward Matt Ruesga, who made the easy layup.
“He plays hard,” Cornfoot said of Ruesga. “He’s just an energy guy when he gets in there, and he complements the other guys.”
Cougar’s senior guard Trek Fayerweather, who finished with 30 of his team’s 64 points, sank a three-pointer in the final 30 seconds to tie the game, forcing overtime when Turlock missed three shots in the closing seconds of regulation and failed to secure the win.
But Bulldogs leading scorer Anthony Hubbard, a senior guard, came out shooting in the extra period, making a three-pointer to open the frame and a stunning, no-look turnaround jumper to put his team up 64-62 late. Hubbard finished with 28 of the Bulldogs’ 67.
“Anthony had a great game,” Cornfoot said. “He’s aggressive, he wants to do good.”
The game came to a close as Fayerweather missed a jumper, then missed two free throws, putting a Cougars win out of reach.
Following the Turlock win, the Bulldogs find themselves tied with Golden Valley for the CCC lead.
“It’s just a big game for us,” Ruesga said. “You’ve got to get in the other team’s head and I think we did that.”
With the season series now even at one game apiece, the two teams will meet for a third and final time in Merced on Feb. 16. But before that contest, the Bulldogs will face a tough challenge in their next matchup, facing off with crosstown and CCC rival Pitman High (8-13, 4-5 CCC) on Wednesday in the Pitman gym.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.