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Crosstown playoff game ends in thrilling OT
Pride edges out Bulldogs in opening round
Pitman 1
Jando Diaz of Pitman shrugs off Turlocks Oscar Moreno during Fridays first round of the D-I CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title game. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Friday marked a historic day for both Turlock and Pitman High’s athletic programs. For the first time in their history, they met on the basketball court for a playoff game in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division I opening round.

With just over a 25-hour notice before the game was scheduled, and a much anticipated postseason game between the crosstown varsity boys basketball teams, the closing minutes did not disappoint, as it became a thrilling game that ended in overtime.

Despite an astonishing 47 fouls called for the game, both sides had a chance to secure the win. Turlock made a threatening run in the second half and eventually took the lead but in the end, the Pride were able to fend off the ‘Dogs for a 72-69 win.

“We haven’t played them in playoffs before, but to me, it was just a playoff game to go into the next round,” said Pitman head coach Harvey Marable. “It didn’t matter who we were playing against, I am just thankful we had the opportunity to be in the playoffs and get a win.”

“There were a lot of fouls. I mean they called it tighter than they did in the regular season, but they were consistent. So as a coach, long as it’s consistent both ways then I am okay with it,” said Turlock head coach Doug Cornfoot.

A total of 20 fouls were called in the first two quarters, including 34 fouls called after the third quarter had concluded.

The third quarter alone saw a combined 17 fouls called, which is unusual for any basketball contest.

After Pitman had gone up at the half, 41-15, it looked like the game was well out of reach but Turlock wasn’t done playing.

The Bulldogs resurrected their offense in the third, outscoring Pitman 21-7 during that span, while Pitman was called for 10 fouls during that stretch.

Nobody fouled out for Pitman, but Turlock had two players  fouled out including their top scorer of the night in Habib Velasquez, who finished with a team-high 18 points. Ricky Heidelbach was the other player to foul out for Turlock.

“Definitely the fouls had something to do with it because it ended being a stop and go game,” said Marable. “And we got out of rhythm and when they were down by that much then you stop the clock and then score like they did, it got them back into the game.”

Turlock was only down by 14 heading into the fourth and final quarter, which was exactly what Cornfoot wanted, and they came out with a fury in the opening minutes, knocking down three shots from behind the arc and a deuce to cut the lead to 50-47 with under six minutes left in regulation.

Pitman led by as much as 27 points in the game but by this point Turlock was able to grind their way back into the game and took the lead on a Heidelbach two pointer with 4:34 left to give the ‘Dogs a 53-52 lead.

“The kids could have easily given up at halftime but they worked hard and it was maybe the best game I have ever coached, at least in a really long time,” said Cornfoot.

Each side exchanged shots and eventually Pitman was able to hold Turlock from getting off a clean look as time expired at 58-58, sending the game into overtime.

“We just had mental mistakes in the third but we fixed, that is just how it goes sometimes, but credit to Turlock they are a very good and tough team,” said Pitman’s Gurman Takhar.

By overtime, Velasquez was already out with five fouls and Heidelbach got his fifth in the opening minutes, giving Pitman an opportunity to fight back without two of Turlock’s most effective players of the night.

Isaiah Marable and Takhar landed threes for Pitman as they went up 64-61, then the final two minutes was a blur of fouls and free throws.

“I knew it wasn’t over because they play too hard and I know they don’t want to lose to us, but they went on a run and eventually took the lead. Good job by them; I tip my hat for that effort,” said Marable.

After Pitman took the lead in overtime, Turlock was unable to amount a comeback and failed to even tie the game in the final seconds as Dom Von Waaden made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 30 seconds.

With 3.3 seconds remaining, Turlock had the chance to inbound and attempt a shot to at least tie it, but Takhar jumped in front of the ball to force the steal as time expired.

 “I was thinking of defense… I came in and got the steal, which was it… defense,” Takhar added.

Jando Diaz led Pitman in scoring with 23 points and added nine rebounds and two steals. Isaiah Marable finished with 12 points after knocking down four threes. Von Waaden had seven points and nine assists.

Will Hilgen led Turlock with 16 points. Oscar Moreno had 12 and Heidelbach finished with 13 points. Mustafa Noel-Johnson had 11 rebounds and five points.

Pitman will take on the No. 1 seed and No. 7 team in state in the next round in Folsom, on the road, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Opportunity for some of the kids to see what it is like to play a team of that caliber and they will come to realize that they need to put in more work or maybe they're just as good, they are going to find out,” Marable added.