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Pride secures second place in league with wins over Turlock, Enochs
Pitman boys basketball 1
Pitman senior Seth Vink makes his way around a Turlock defender during the Pride’s Wednesday matchup against Turlock High (KATIE DAY/The Journal).

Pitman High guard Avery Sanchez had been in the same situation before. 

Just about 24 hours prior, as a matter of fact.

Sanchez had been challenged during Tuesday night’s practice by boys basketball coach Harvey Marble to make 27 consecutive free throws.

And when Sanchez needed to make three in a row on Wednesday to defeat visiting Turlock in overtime, the 6-foot sophomore calmly strode to the charity stripe and sank three consecutive freebies to lift Pitman to a 74-73 victory.

Avery Sanchez
Pitman High guard Avery Sanchez sank three consecutive freebies in Wednesday’s game to lift Pitman to a 74-73 victory over Turlock (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

“I thought it was going to be easy,” said Sanchez, in regards to making 27 in a row. “I missed a couple and got frustrated. We talked about it and worked on getting rid of that (frustration), knowing I was going to make the next one. And, eventually I got it done. So, that’s what helped me get through that. A big ‘thank you’ to Coach Marable. He’s an amazing coach.”

But why 27? Could it be that that 27 is one more than the margin by which the Pride lost to the Bulldogs — 63-37 — in their first Central California Athletic League meeting on Jan. 20?

“Nope, it’s just a number,” said Marable. “The other day I had him make 16 in row. It’s just a number. Are you going to focus on the number or are you going to focus on the little things, the process, that allow you to accomplish your goal?”

Turlock point guard Jed Ladine, coming off a record-setting 50-point performance for the ’Dogs, scored 20 against the Pride. Jordan Williams and Ladine each hit three-pointers in the final minute that helped Turlock erase a late seven-point deficit and force overtime. 

Sanchez, with eight points in the four-minute extra session, finished with a game-high 25.

After Ladine hit a pull-up trey with 13 seconds left to give his team a 73-71 advantage, the Pride called a timeout to set up their final shot.

Sanchez took the inbounds pass and raced up the sideline. He pulled up and attempted a three-pointer about 10 feet from the baseline. Freshman guard Claxton Ladine was whistled for a foul, sending Sanchez to the line with 1.1 seconds remaining.

After sinking 27 in a row the night before, did Sanchez know he was going to bury the three?

“To be honest, I didn’t,” said Sanchez. “I practiced just last night, in here, on that very rim, with two speakers next to me blasting crowd noises. I was able to zone everything out. I just saw the rim and knocked them down.”

The victory put the Pride in position to wrap up sole possession of second place with their 56-52 win over Enochs on Friday. Pitman’s win, coupled with Turlock’s 57-54 loss to Downey, sent the Bulldogs into third place in the conference standings.

Downey finishes the regular season 23-5 and 10-0 in the CCAL, while the Pride closes out with an 18-9 overall mark and 7-3 in league. Turlock finishes 16-12 and 6-4.

The Sac-Joaquin Section will release playoff brackets on Sunday.