This year’s Ceres Holiday Tournament proved to be the perfect setting for the boys of Pitman High to undergo a growth spurt as a team. Sitting with a record of 2-8 before the tournament’s opening day, the Pride showed a resilient determination towards improvement with strong performances and wins over Oakdale and Delhi High.
Saturday’s championship game against host team Ceres High was Pitman’s opportunity to solidify its competitive status on the court. For the most part the green and silver did just that, going basket for basket with the crimson Bulldogs, but Ceres was able to stay a couple steps ahead of Pitman. The Pride lost their final game 52-46, but a second place finish and its effect on the team’s confidence was the perfect gift for this time of year.
“It’s definitely a confidence builder for us,” Pitman’s head coach Harvey Marable said. “We’re moving in the right direction. “The understanding of what we’re doing and the growing as a team is going well.”
The first half of Saturday’s game showcased a refined offense on Pitman’s part. Led by Branson Garcia and Aaron Mayfield, the Pride kept Ceres on the ropes with calculated shots and near perfection from the free throw line. Still, Pitman showed flashes of its youth and inexperience as it turned the ball over on occasion and missed the opportunity to extend their lead before halftime. After allowing Ceres to cut a ten point lead and tie the game with a little over a minute left in the second quarter, Pitman relinquished their lead as Jimbo Pernetti hit a trey with one second on the clock making it 26-23 at the half.
“We started out like gangbusters; they were executing what we needed to do,” Marable said. “They hit a three at the beginning of the game and they hit a three at the end of the half, it was a momentum changer.”
Pernetti’s last second trey paved the way for a Ceres dominated second half. Pitman went 2 for 14 from the floor in the third quarter and found itself trailing by 12 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Pride also had to deal with the loss of big man Nick Mattos who left with a sprained ankle late in the third quarter.
“It reduced our size and aggressiveness on the boards without him in there,” Marable said of Mattos.
Even with the second half digression, Pitman was able to bounce back and make it 46-41 with 2:29 left in regulation, a fighting effort that provided the loss with some positivity.
Garcia finished the game with 21 points and was named to the All Tournament Team alongside Gurvinder Uppal.
“They’re believing in themselves and wanting to compete,” Marable said.
Pitman’s next step is the Oakdale Tournament on Thursday. The Pride will then host Edison High on Jan. 2 before the beginning of Central California Conference play on Jan. 9 against Buhach Colony High.