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De Jong leads TC hoops to 16-point comeback in playoff quarters
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Case DeJong attempts to score for TC during the game Friday evening against Elliot Christian (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Turlock Christian head coach Jacob Gregg shook his head, with a big, relieved smile on his face.

“It’s something about this matchup, man” he said. “I think we’ve got a little rivalry brewing here.”

The rivalry he speaks of is between his team and Elliot Christian High, who met for the third time this season, this time in the quarterfinals of the Division VI CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. In league play, 10-19 overall and 1-9 league-standing Elliot Christian gave the TC Eagles two of their toughest games of the season, losing by 12 in their first matchup and by just 2 the second time around. During Friday night’s playoff game, EC held a 16-point lead at one point in the eventual 51-46 victory in favor of TC.

“We know each other pretty well playing twice already, so they always come motivated, and we just bring out the best in each other,” said TC senior captain Case De Jong. “I’m just glad we were able to get back on track and get the win.”

De Jong was a major factor in the Eagles’ ability to get back on track, as he led all players with 21 points, 12 of those coming in the fourth quarter alone.

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Ben Bylsma attempts to score for the Eagles during the game against Elliot Christian Friday evening (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“I just told myself, ‘I need to score. I need to find a way to score,’ and that’s what I did,” De Jong said.

It was the polar opposite of what transpired in the first quarter, when TC fell behind 9-0 after starting the game shooting 0 for 9 from the field.

“I think it was just the nerves of a playoff game and the playoff atmosphere,” Gregg said. “Luckily, they were able to settle down and execute better, and it was great to see the senior leadership from Case take over.”

Gregg also offered praise to sophomore forward Andrew Fisher, who contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds on the night, and Seth Russell, who grabbed 7 boards of his own with 2 blocks and 2 steals.

Despite the early round playoff scare, De Jong still exuded plenty of confidence after the final buzzer.

“We know we have all the pieces to get it done again, so that’s our goal. We want that Section title,” he said.

And in his best Babe Ruth impression, he called his shot.

“We’ll see you at Golden 1,” he said, referring to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento in which the Section finals will take place late next week.

But De Jong and his teammates must be sure to not get ahead of themselves. The 12-9 overall and 6-4 league-standing Eagles still have to play a semifinal game on Wednesday against the Valley Christian Academy Lions of Roseville, who achieved a 19-8 overall record on the season and defeated the Foresthill High Wildfires in their own quarterfinal matchup on Friday night. Wednesday’s game between the Eagles and Lions is scheduled for 7 p.m., with a home venue for TC yet to be determined at the time of this publication.