In almost every game, Turlock High’s Matt Ruesga provides a unique stat. It’s the kind that a high school boys basketball supporter doesn’t see too often, perhaps because the amount of sacrifice it requires.
“He’s good for at least a charge a game,” coach Doug Cornfoot explained.
Ruesga made one against Merced High on Monday night that sent the Bulldogs bench roaring in what was once a tightly heated battle. Ruesga’s surrendering of his body gave the Turlock players and coaches a new charge late in the game, as the Bulldogs won 57-45 at Bulldog Arena in the first of three Central California Conference games this week.
It was also just the second time in five years that the Bulldogs have beaten Merced.
After the Bears tied it at 30-30 early in the third quarter, Ruesga — always a spark plug off the bench — scored Turlock’s final six points in the period to give the Bulldogs a 41-36 edge. His energy didn’t die out there, though. He took a charge with under six minutes left in the game with his team up 51-38, the night’s second biggest lead.
He did more than sacrifice his body, too.
He finished with 17 points on eight of nine shooting, giving Turlock another scoring option as starting junior guard Alek Carlson finished with 18. Senior guard Anthony Hubbard added 9 points, more than enough to lift the Bulldogs to a 6-1 league record.
Next up is tonight’s game at winless Atwater High.
And then, it’s the highly anticipated meeting with unbeaten Golden Valley High at home.
But just like any well-coached team in the universe, these Bulldogs aren’t thinking ahead. And Monday’s opponents — the defending league champions who are in rebuilding mode — weren’t going to let that happen, either.
Merced finally made it interesting three minutes into the third, when Jose Campos nailed a 3-pointer on the right wing for the game’s only tied score. But the momentum shifted back to the Bulldogs, thanks to Ruesga’s effort.
He said he also used his height to his advantage.
“I had size over them like nothing,” said Ruesga, who finished with four boards.
In fact, he wasn’t the only one towering against one of Merced’s shorter teams in school history. Hubbard, Connor Pearson and Da’Shawn Holcombe finished with six rebounds apiece.
A Turlock zone defense also, as Cornfoot puts it, “caused a little discomfort.” The Bears finished with just 9 points in the fourth, as one player — Jaquari People — finished in double-digit scoring with 11.
With the Merced win completed, the Bulldogs know what’s ahead. Golden Valley visits Bulldog Arena on Friday at 7:15 p.m. for another CCC clashing. The Cougars, however, were the winners of a close battle.
The Bulldogs are anticipating the do-over.
At the same time, they’re not looking ahead.
“We’re not looking past Atwater,” Cornfoot said about today’s road game. “They’re going to come out after us. We gotta be ready to play. That’s how we have to look at it: one game at a time.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 634-9141 ext. 2041.