MODESTO -- A Merced-Golden Valley meeting on the basketball court usually means a packed gym, energy in the air and a league race to be contested.
There was none of that Saturday afternoon, though it didn't keep the Bears and the Cougars from squaring off for the usual city bragging rights.
Golden Valley eventually prevailed 43-33 in the consolation flight of the Modesto City Classic at Downey High. No one could remember the rivals colliding so early in the season.
"I'm sure the kids still enjoyed it because some of them are friends," Merced coach Hector Nava said.
Probably true, though the mistake-ridden game bore the imprint of two teams still trying to find their mojo.
The first team to define its intention and execute figured to win. That proved to be Golden Valley (3-1), which led 34-32 with two minutes left.
Coach Keith Hunter's timeout stabilized his team. The Cougars' next two half-court sets produced baskets, the first a layup by Ben Fletcher (9 points) and the second a rebound and follow by Joshua Sykes. Those hoops keynoted a 9-1 game-closing rally.
"We got the ball where we wanted to get it," Hunter said.
The coincidence of this game hung above both benches. Central California Conference coaches voted to trim their league schedules this season from a triple-round robin to the standard home-and-home. Limiting antagonism was the goal.
So, of course, Golden Valley -- after a first-round win over Los Banos -- lost to Grace Davis and was dropped into a consolation-bracket matchup with CCC affiliate Atwater. And one win later, the Cougars drew Merced.
"I actually voted to keep it (the triple-round robin). The league should be a good grind," Hunter said. "And I think 15 league games hold more weight in the power ratings."
"The coaches voted out of the triple-round robin for a reason," he said. "Playing three games in conference (against one team) is not fun."
Whatever the case, the Bears (2-2) and the Cougars put down markers for more high-stakes meetings. Merced junior Travante Richard finished a strong tournament (15.7-point average in four games) with 11 points.
The Bears survived an overtime against Beyer in the first round before they fell to eventual champion Central Catholic.
Richard was named to the 10-man all-tournament team along with Golden Valley junior guard Christian Carroll, the latter who sealed the victory with 4-of-4 shooting from the free-throw line in the final seconds.
Atwater 67, Lathrop 59 (OT)
Atwater junior Ben Peterson scored 37 points, four of them during overtime of the Falcons' victory. Josh Heller of Atwater (2-3) forced the extra period by nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 8 seconds left in regulation.
Dublin 40, Buhach Colony 31
Milan Moses scored 14 points to lead Dublin to a win over the Thunder (2-1) in the championship game of the Lady Cougar Classic.
Allison Wisdom and Jessica Silva earned all-tournament honors for Buhach Colony. Wisdom scored 15 points.
Modesto Christian 67, Los Banos 14
LOS BANOS -- Hoku Faiaipau poured in 23 points to lead the Crusaders to a win in the championship game of the Los Banos/Pacheco Tournament. Jacquelin Arretche led the Tigers with nine points.