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Turlock drops league opener to El Capitan
Turlock's Shawn Grewal is surrounded by El Capitan but still wins the ball back for the Bulldogs during the game Wednesday evening. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

League play began for the Turlock High School boys’ basketball team Wednesday night, and despite the team’s success over the holiday break, the Bulldogs were unable to defeat El Capitan High School.


Following tournament play over the holidays, which Turlock head coach Doug Cornfoot described as “competitive,” Turlock came into their first Central California Conference match hungry for a win. The Gauchos had other plans, outworking the Bulldogs to a 63-47 score.


“We had four good games over the holiday break playing quality teams…we knew what they were going to do tonight but the mental preparation was off. That’s my fault,” said Cornfoot.


The game’s first quarter was a low-scoring one, but the Bulldogs were unable to attack the Gauchos’ passing game enough to prevent them from jumping out to an early six-point lead. In addition to El Capitan’s strong offense, the shots weren’t falling for Turlock.


The Bulldogs showed signs of life in the second quarter, however, as Michael Patterson hit a three-point shot followed by several baskets from Mustafa Noel-Johnson. It still wasn’t enough to get within striking distance, as the Gauchos never allowed the Bulldogs to get within less than five points of the lead in the quarter.


“We let their pressure dictate the tempo of the game,” said Cornfoot. “We missed free throws, we missed defensive assignments.”


Turlock completed 56 percent of their free throws, sinking 14 of 25. El Capitan completed close to the same, making 16 of 28.


The Gauchos increased their lead in the third quarter, outshooting the Bulldogs two to six. Trailing 48-32, Turlock tried to close the gap in the game’s final minutes. They came within 12 points of the lead thanks to hoops from Shawn Grewal and a three-point shot from Dallin Tilby, but were unable to catch El Capitan.


“We talked about how we still have a long way to go,” said Cornfoot. “(El Capitan) is a good team and they played really well, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot by playing dumb basketball.”


Following Wednesday’s game, the Bulldogs will next play at 5 p.m. on Saturday against Lodi High School. For now, said Cornfoot, the team must regroup and prepare for the three league matchups they have slated for next week.


“I like the fact that we didn’t quit,” he said. “We’ve still got to work on the fundamentals and the little things, though.”