It was all about control for Pitman High Thursday night when Atwater High rolled into town.
The Pride (4-4 CCC) welcomed the Falcons (4-4 CCC) onto their court with a relentless press, accented by fast break layups and a strong presence in the paint. Pitman’s girls left Atwater’s players and coaches flustered as they regularly tipped and intercepted passes and sometimes even snatched the ball right out of their opponent’s hands.
“We’re starting to get pretty good with our pressure package,” Pitman’s head coach Dustin Curtiss said. “They like it. They get to play with intensity and run up and down the court.”
By halftime, big time play from Alex DeChari and Samantha Gonzalez in the post gave Pitman a comfortable 27-14 lead. The Pride hit the court in the third quarter doing more of the same to Atwater, going on a 7-0 run with the help of Brittany Leon and co. But just as the game seemed to be over, the Falcons awoke and went on a fourth quarter rampage where they outscored the Pride 19-8.
Pitman was reminded not to count their Falcons before they hatch.
“We put up some points quickly to take a 20 point lead but we starting making some mistakes we weren’t making earlier, and they came back to make it real close,” Curtiss said.
Whereas Pitman was the aggressor in the first half with its press defense, Atwater assumed the role of aggressor as the clock wound down.
“They turned it back on us,” Curtiss said. “I don’t know if we relaxed as much as they stepped their game up.”
Pitman survived the onslaught for a 45-43 victory—a reversal of roles for a Pride team that’s lost three league games by three points or less.
Leon finished the night leading in points with 10 with DeChari and Gonzalez right behind her with 9 points each. As for their play under the boards, Gonzalez finished with six rebounds while DeChari finished with 8 rebounds and chipped in four blocked shots.
“Luckily, we responded to get the win, but they played harder than we did in the fourth quarter,” Curtiss said.
The Pride’s victory knots them with Atwater for third place in the Central California Conference behind Merced High and undefeated Buhach Colony High. Pitman’s hopes for a post-season berth hinge on its girls winning the last two games of the season and the Bears dropping theirs.
“Right now they’re playing for the love of the game,” Curtiss said of his team. “Our motivation is to get to 500 on the year and get into the top three of the league and if playoffs happen, they happen.”
Pitman travels to Golden Valley High on Tuesday before taking on rival Turlock High on Thursday in the season finale.