The Pitman High varsity girls basketball team hosted Atwater High in their second and final league meeting on Tuesday night that saw two of the top teams in the Central California Conference competing to keep their hopes of a league title alive.
With two league losses and a win earlier in the season against Atwater, Pitman seemed confident heading into the game despite playing without their star Kaylin Randhawa, who was out due to a minor injury.
The Pride maintained a solid lead for majority of the game, including a double-digit lead at the half and heading into the fourth. Neither mattered after the Falcons of Atwater held the Pride to no points in the fourth and rallied to win the game on the road 41-39.
“No excuses, I just think we got hesitant, that is on me, it looked like we played hesitant in the fourth quarter,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss. “Started thinking too much and the crowd, their crowd, started screaming and we started doing things we haven’t all game.”
Turnovers became common for the Pride, especially late in the game and in the second half altogether.
From the midway part of the first until the final minute, Pitman never trailed. It wasn’t until the final 30 seconds that the Falcons finally went up for good.
Pitman led by as many as 14 points and maintained a steady double-digit lead for majority of the game.
Well over a dozen turnovers were committed in the second half alone by Pitman, although they still led 39-29 by the end of the third.
From there, the Falcons of Atwater, led by captain Lexi Valencia, went on a scoring spree.
Valencia was the catalyst and knocked down the tying shot with 50 seconds left in the game.
Pitman saw one final opportunity arise with under 25 seconds remaining. Sydney Smith worked her way inside the paint and jumped up, attempting a shot, but it bounced off and back into her hands.
Smith turned around and passed the ball to Gracie Alves, who was open from the three-point range, but the basket hit the side of the rim and out of play.
“They picked up the intensity and we didn’t match them. We turned the ball over way too much and it will lead to zero,” said Curtiss.
It also just the second time this season that the Pride have lost in back-to-back games.
The Pride were also without their top player Randhawa.
Olivia Salafia went down in the second half and didn’t return after injuring her left ankle.
“This is a tough one… a real tough one, especially being up by double digits heading into the third quarter, then losing Liv,” said Curtiss. “Hopefully, it’s not too serious, because it didn’t look good. Our momentum kind of died and we never picked it back up.”
Jessica Smith led all Pride scorers with a team-high 12 points. Ruby Randhawa added eight points. Salafia and Emma Tolliver added five points apiece.
Pitman’s overall record now stands at 13-9 and they are tied with Atwater for third place at 4-3 so far in CCC play.
“We hope that we get some of the younger ones to step up and play well,” Curtiss added. “These types of environments… even though we lost… you do learn how to handle noise, physicality and certain situations and hopefully we learned from it.”
Pitman’s next game will be on the road at Golden Valley at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.