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Pitman still undefeated in CCC
Pitman's Jando Diaz brings the ball down the court as his Merced opponent follows closely behind. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

The Pitman Pride and Merced Bears matched up for their third game in the Central California Conference in Pitman’s house on Friday night, where the Pride (10-7 overall, 3-0 CCC) were able to extend their winning streak with an exciting finish.

“I look how the season started out for our kids and then where we are right now,” said Harvey Marable, head coach. “It’s nice to see them being rewarded for all the hard work and time they’ve put in.”

It wasn't an easy win for the Pride, who had to battle the Bears at each quarter finally pulling off a 53-51 victory.

The game started out slow, both teams unable to buy a basket until five minutes left in the first quarter when Pitman’s Jando Diaz found Gurman Takhar under the hoop for a reverse layup off a backdoor look.

Isaiah Marable continued to get the ball rolling for the Pride when he launched a corner three from downtown shortly after to wake the crowd and the offense.

Merced (9-10, overall 0-3 CCC) struggled at the free-throw line early on but both teams had trouble finding their rhythm in the first half with numerous unforced turnovers.

“During any season you’re going to have stretches where you don’t start or play how you normally would,” said Coach Marable. “Nights like that you’ve got to dig down and get back to doing what you do, and this is one of the nights where we just didn’t play our style continuously of ball consistently.”

Alexander Ray Stewart for the Bears put up quite a fight and kept Merced in the game after he forced a turnover and went coast-to-coast to lay it in with 5:41 left in the first half and bring the Bears within one, 14-13.

Two back-to-back and-1 plays gave the Pride the momentum they needed to finish the first half of play when they went on an 8-0 run and finished the second quarter leading 29-21.

Diaz stepped up when his team needed him to and opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, but Marable kept a hot hand from behind the arc finishing with 14 points.

A turnover by Pitman gave the Bears an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead and Stewart did just that with his and-1 on the other side on the court to close the third quarter, putting the Bears up for the first time all game, 39-38.

The peak of his performance came early in the fourth quarter with the same intensity as he closed the third with when he threw up a monster dunk  over the Pride to put the Bears up, yet again by 1, 42-41.

Coach Marable noted that they were lucky to get Stewart in foul trouble late in the game when he was charged with an offensive foul, but complimented the Bears on how well they were able to pull together as a team without him.

“Even when [Stewart] went out, they still got together as a group to keep fighting and execute,” he said. “They did a good job.”

With 1:05 left the game was tied at 50, and once again Diaz stepped up when needed, delivering a big three from the wing, and the score ending 53-51 respectively.

Diaz finished the night with 12 points, 7 rebounds and Leon Ohms performance totaled 6 points, 3 blocks, 5 assists and 7 rebounds.

“It’s all about the kids and I’m glad they get to reap the benefits of another win,” said Coach Marable. “But it’s also stressful now because people want to see the streak going, and that’s what they’re on.”

Pitman will next travel to face Buhach Colony at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.