Turlock High drove through two of the Modesto Metro Conference’s best teams on Thursday and Friday to earn a shot at tonight's Godinez Tournament Championship. The Bulldogs beat Beyer High by the skin of their teeth, 43-40, in the first round on Thursday and then proceeded to manhandle Modesto High 68-40 Friday night. But Turlock’s biggest test lies in the form of Laguna Creek High who handedly defeated Davis and McNair High.
Thursday’s game against Beyer was a rollercoaster ride of inconsistency for Turlock. After scoring 13 unanswered points and jumping out to a sizeable lead, Turlock took its foot off the gas and allowed the Patriots back in the game. A slew of missed shots and untimely turnovers gave Beyer a 23-21 halftime lead and frustrated Turlock’s bench.
“We saw Beyer in the Modesto Tournament and they were very impressive. They could possibly be the best team in the MMC,” Turlock’s head coach Doug Cornfoot said. “I think we got that lead and we took a sigh of relief. They kept grinding and we lost that advantage we had.”
The second half saw the Bulldogs continue their hesitant offensive attack as they shied away from the outside shot but solid defense off the bench from Demsen McFaddin and Sean Downs kept Beyer at bay. Darren Trainor also came off the bench in the second half to provide a scoring spark for Turlock. The combination of McFaddin, Downs, and Trainor combined for 11 of Turlock second half points.
“On any given night someone can step up and have a big night,” Cornfoot said. “We’re not afraid to put subs in.”
By Friday night Cornfoot’s starters found their rhythm and eased their coach’s frustration from the night before. Devan Bains hit three treys in the first quarter to give his team a shot of confidence. Bains’ perimeter shots were the start of a host of outside shots from the Bulldogs who ended the night with a total of eight treys. DaShawn Holcombe also aided Turlock's offensive effort with quick drives to the basket but his defensive aptitude took the wind out of Modesto’s sails. Over the course of four quarters Turlock recorded 12 defensive takeaways, half of which were forced by Holcombe.
“We talked about getting in rhythms. Today we got in that rhythm and kept the pressure on,” Cornfoot said. “I was happy with the way everybody played tonight.”
The Bulldogs must now put the memory of Beyer and Modesto behind them and focus on the ever athletic Laguna Creek squad. Turlock’s towering duo of Austin Bush and Kenny Fraser will be tasked with guarding the Cardinal’s big man Malik Pope while Holcombe and the rest of Turlock’s squad slows down their guards.
“We have to shoot like we did today but we’ll have to defend better,” Cornfoot said. “They’re athletic. I like our chances but we have to come ready to play.”
Turlock and Laguna Creek face off in Turlock’s boys gym at 7p.m.
But before the championship match local basketball fans can catch the Pitman High and Beyer game at 2:30p.m. The Pride dropped their first round game to McNair High 46-38 and lost their second round game to Davis High 59-48 as their young players struggled to find their flow.
“Davis always presents a challenge but it was a combination of how tough they play and our youth,” Pitman’s head coach Harvey Marable said. “There were times when we played together and got some good shots but then we would have a turnover in important spots.”
Pitman’s Achilles heel was inopportune turnovers and a lack of accurate shooting. Still, consistent three point shots from Branson Garcia and the grit of Gurvinder Uppal proved to be bright spots for the Pride. Today’s game will be Pitman’s eighth in 11 days, a rigorous schedule for any young team. Marable and his boys plan on winning the game and returning to practice to work on certain areas and utilize the lessons learned from their losses.