Fresh off a tight loss to Atwater, the Pitman High girls’ basketball was searching any way possible to pick up their first Central California Conference victory, but came up just short after an overtime thriller with Merced Thursday night.
Pitman led for a majority of the game until the closing seconds when the Bears went on a surge with the help of junior Lexi Thompson, who scored Merced’s final 16 points of the game late in the fourth, and they kept their momentum with an 8-4 run to top Pitman, 59-55.
“Second night in a row where the same thing happened to us, late in the game and it was close and I think we let the environment and tight game get the best of us,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss. “We made mistakes that didn’t happen in the first half. Obviously we should have won this one.”
It was more than a must-win for the Pride to stay in contention for a league title after starting off 0-2, but after the game they now fall to a 0-3 start in CCC play. Merced goes up 3-0.
“It’s going to be tough to understand the loses but we need to figure out how close we are to being in the top part of league, I mean we are right there,” Curtiss said. “We just need to stop making mistakes at the end, but we will get back at it tomorrow and we will try to mimic this situation again and learn from it.”
Although Pitman had the obvious height advantage at nearly every position, the Merced Bears were playing relentlessly and managed to force Pitman to commit 36 turnovers for the game. About 15 of those came in the fourth quarter alone as the Pride were outscored 20-13 heading into overtime.
“The last two, including this one, we saw as must win games and to drop them both is a little frustrating,” said Curtiss. “I wish we could have done better in the fourth quarter late in the game when it’s close, but right now we are making some mistakes that are hurting us really bad—killing us.”
Although freshman Whitney Barnes ended the night with a double-double, tacking on 18 points and 12 rebounds, her control in the paint was not enough for the miraculous plays made by Merced at the end, which included a four-point play from Thompson to tie the game at 51 apiece by the end of regulation.
“We just have to keep battling and eventually we will get them. It’s a tough one and I feel bad for the girls but we will grow from our mistakes,” Curtiss said. “We did some great things in the first half and we just need to get over that hump of being in a tight game and figuring it out.”
Pitman will look to end their three game league drought when they travel to Buhach Colony next to take on the Thunder at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.