It happens nearly every time they step on the same court.
Chalk it up to in-town competitiveness or familiarity with each other, the fact is when Turlock and Pitman High clash it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be close.
Wednesday night was no exception when the Bulldogs (4-1 CCC) hosted the Pride (0-5 CCC) in the season’s first crosstown matchup and the end of the first round of Central California Conference play. Turlock entered the night on a three game win streak while Pitman was still without a league win—but you wouldn’t have guessed just by watching them play.
“Any team in this league can beat anybody if you’re not prepared,” Turlock’s head coach Doug Cornfoot said. “We knew coming into the game that Pitman wasn’t going to lay down just because they haven’t won a league game yet.”
And lay down they didn’t. With less than a minute in regulation the Pride found themselves trailing their rivals by one basket. They had fought back from a 10 point deficit and for a moment it seemed that a comeback win—similar to that of last season’s—was on the horizon. As the clock wound down those hopes began to fade, however. Turlock maintained its lead with three free throws and held on to win by the slim margin of 41-37.
“You give a team a little bit of a window and they take advantage of it,” Cornfoot said.
“We had to pull it out, so it’s a good win,” Bulldog captain DaShawn Holcombe said.
The night started with a tit for tat exchange of points. Turlock attacked with big men Austin Bush and Kenny Fraser in the post and the speedy Holcombe carving the inside while Pitman relied on the persistence of Gurvinder Uppal and the perimeter shooting of Branson Garcia.
By the end of the first half, after seven lead changes, Turlock entered the locker room clinging to a one point lead.
Discontent with such a close score, Turlock entered the third quarter with a different, smaller strategy. Rather than rely on the size of Bush and Fraser, the Bulldogs went man to man and enlisted the quickness of Chris Attaway and Sean Downs to do the job on defense. With their smaller pieces in place the Bulldogs held the Pride to only four points in the third quarter, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Holcombe finished the night leading his team with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals while Bush racked up 7 points and 6 rebounds. Uppal and Garcia also had productive nights, scoring 8 and 16 points for Pitman, respectively.
“To be a team captain and a leader sometimes you have to say things that the other kids might not like to hear and you got to be able to stand up and do it. I think he finally understands that,” Cornfoot said of Holcombe. “It’s his senior year, he’s done after this year, and he knows what he’s talking about so the kids are feeding off his leadership and what he’s doing on the court.”
While beating Pitman was undoubtedly sweet, players and coaches alike were not in an over celebratory mood knowing that undefeated Golden Valley High—responsible for Turlock’s sole CCC loss— were next in line.
“It feels good but our ultimate prize is to beat Golden Valley. That’s what we’re looking forward to,” Holcombe said.
“Every game is going to be a dogfight and we have to be ready to battle,” Cornfoot said. “Hopefully we can turn the tide and come out ready to play against Golden Valley. That would set a good tone for the second half of the season.”