They did it. The Pitman High boys basketball team won the Oakdale Rotary Classic Tournament Championship for the first time in the team's sixth appearance after nipping Downey, then sweeping through Oakdale and Ripon Christian in the championship game.
The Pride picked up right where they started against the winless Downey High Knights, as they were able to notch a tight a 59-56 win in the opening round.
“It was a close game. They played real well and for us it was one of those days that we did not play as well or intense ... they took advantage of that. Sometimes you need to win ugly, and we did,” Pitman head coach Harvey Marable said.
Before dominating Downey less than a week ago, 50-21, Pitman underestimated the Knights who came out on fire in the second half but it wasn’t enough as the Pride defense that tallied 14 steals helped secure the win. Branson Garcia scored 22 points, three rebounds and steals and Cyle Williams followed with 14 points adding on eight boards.
“This next time around they [Downey] came out ready to play," Marable said.
In the second round, the Pride met up with the hosts—Oakdale—as they took it to them right from the start. By the second quarter, they were out of reach as Pitman rode into a 52-37 win against the Mustangs and a chance at their first title.
Leading the way in scoring was Williams, who totaled 21 for the game with eight rebounds and a pair of steals. Adding 12 apiece were Garcia and Gurvinder Uppal, who also tallied five steals and five assists.
“We played defensively well and it was as close to a complete game in all phases, we rebounded well,” Marable said. “We shot from the floor well, even though we only attempted 10 free throws. Getting to the free throw line is huge in a win.”
Finally, in their first appearance in the Oakdale Tournament Championship game, the Pride met a strong Ripon Christian High team who came out ready to play. It was close early on in the first quarter with a 23-19 score, but after that Pitman pushed away as the Pride clinched a 73-59 victory over the Knights.
“Ripon Christian is very good, and our defense and rebounding are improving, a huge leap in this game,” Marable said. “I told them it was decision day, as coaches were not playing, we just hope we gave them enough tools to compete and to not make it seem so unfamiliar.”
Williams and Uppal added 20 points each and Garcia tallied 18 of the team's total for the game. Sneaking his way into the stats sheet was sophomore Micah Millentree, who added eight points and nine rebounds.
“It is like a total building process that we have gone through this year,” Marable added. “We work at practice to perfect and get precision, and in game time we see their decision — practice is precision and game is precision.”
As they continue to get ready for league play, the Pride will travel to Stockton and square off against Edison High at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.