The Pitman Pride boys basketball team secured second place in league, while also earning a playoff berth and sweeping Turlock High for the year after a 59-54 win on Wednesday night from the ‘Dogs gym, in the final game of the regular season.
“We could have hung our heads and gave up early, but they kept fighting all season through the adversity we had to deal with, so I am proud they played tough,” said THS head coach Doug Cornfoot.
“We made the playoffs but missed a chance to win league,” said Pitman head coach Harvey Marable. “It doesn’t happen unless our culture and everything changes, and it was great compared to last year, the number of games we won this year.”
The Pride’s record is almost a complete turnaround, after they went 9-15 last year and 2-8 in the first year competing in the Central California Athletic League. This year they are 14-9 overall and close out CCAL play with a 7-3 record. Pitman’s three losses came by a combined five points.
Turlock, on the other hand, struggled to find a groove and close out games after they went 3-7 in league play.
This led to a rare occurrence under the leadership of Cornfoot, who saw a losing season in league for just the second time since 2006-2007.
The other losing season in league was in 2016-2017 when they went 5-7 in the CCC.
The next two seasons in league were winning seasons while they finished second in the CCC with a 9-3 record in 2017-2018 and last year were 7-3 in the first year in the CCAL.
The rivalry between the two Turlock teams has favored the Bulldogs.
“Now they know, we have been pretty successful, as far as you look at our league record, last several years,” said Cornfoot. “We have always been one of the top two teams and sometimes there are guys that get complacent, and we talked that we need to get that fire to burn so we can get back to that position next year. Those close losses are fuel to burn the fire.”
Since 2004, the Pitman boys basketball team has only beaten Turlock twice in one season on three occasions.
On Wednesday, Pitman was anchored by three players who scored in double digits — Josiah Frank (14), Dylan Anderson (14) and Kyahn Issa (11). The defense also forced 13 turnovers, while the offense turned it over just 10 times.
“It started off how rivalries start, little nervous, everybody trying to find their footing and a spell where we were clicking and going really well and the game got away from Turlock,” said Marable. “But give them credit, they tightened up defense and offense and a close one the rest of the way through.”
Thanks to Cam Walker, Turlock stayed in the game, after the all-leaguer notched a game-high 17 points. Joey Cusenza added 15 points.
Pitman led 30-27 by halftime on Wednesday night from the Dog Pound gym.
“I think containing Cam Walker was important since he is an intricate part of the team and he gets others involved, so containing him was key, and our guys knew,” said Marable. “Executing in a tight game was big and not doing more than what they can.”
The second half proved to be close once again after the third quarter saw Pitman outscore Turlock, 14-13.
The Pride fended off the ‘Dogs in the fourth after outscoring them, 15-14.
Pitman has also won three straight following the win, including six of the last seven.
Turlock ends the year having lost four consecutive games.
“I was proud, the last three games that we played three playoff teams we were under 10 points each game, far as the final score,” said Cornfoot. “We also had a sophomore, who ended up starting for us, and you could see his growth, Daniel Malagon, and with what he has been through this season, far as being a sophomore, he will definitely make us a better team next year.”
“For our seniors, what better way to go out, last year 2-8 and this year second place, 7-3, and I think they leave with a great experience in high school,” Marable added. “The biggest thing for me was the change of culture, the whole atmosphere, that has been the biggest thing and everything else is icing on the cake.”
The Pride also qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and will square off against an opponent yet to be determined at a time yet to be announced, next week. For the latest playoff updates visit cifsjs.org.