Golden Valley is a very different boys basketball team when Josh Sykes isn't on the court.
The 6-foot-6 junior's long frame is imposing enough, but it seems even bigger with the way he can change an offense's approach.
He certainly loomed large in the second-half of Golden Valley's Central California Conference opener against Turlock.
After sitting for almost 10 minutes in foul trouble in the first half, Sykes ability to alter shots and gobble up rebounds in the middle of the Cougar defense helped turn the game on its head. GV erased a 10-point halftime deficit and limited the Bulldogs to just six points in the fourth quarter of a 58-52 victory.
"I lost my composure a little bit," said Sykes, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. "I learned a lesson having to sit there while my teammates were breaking down defensively.
"We were down and flat at halftime. Coach got us back up and we started building some momentum in the second half."
The Cougars (1-0 CCC, 14-4) certainly needed the pick-me-up after Turlock (0-1 CCC, 10-8) took it to them in the first half.
The quick guard play of Dashawn Holcombe (eight points), Devan Baines (seven points) and Demsen McFaddin (game-high 20 points) gave Golden Valley fits.
And with Sykes out of the game, Kenny Fraser feasted on offensive rebounds.
The Bulldogs took a comfortable 33-23 lead into intermission.
"If you compare it to a fight, Turlock came out and threw the first punch," GV head coach Keith Hunter said. "And we were dazed. We got knocked into the ropes, but we didn't fall down.
"That gave us the chance to fight our way back into it."
Evan Stillahn (12 points) and Christian Carroll (20 points) hit back-to-back 3s to open the second half, but Turlock would respond.
Despite GV's improved play, it still trailed by seven at the end of three quarters.
The Cougar defense took over the game in the fourth quarter.
Sykes picked up all four of his blocks in the second half and altered another dozen.
The Bulldogs began to lose their offensive aggression, while Sykes' teammates picked up theirs defensively, knowing he was in the middle to provide help.
GV opened the fourth quarter with a quick 6-1 run to make it a game. Stillahn then drained a 3-pointer with 3 minutes to go to give the Cougars their first lead of the game at 50-49.
Carroll hit six free throws in the fourth quarter and GV never trailed again.
"I think we came out with a good game plan and executed it well," Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot said. "Unfortunately, we got away from it in the second half.
"We lost our intensity and mental edge and kind of panicked a little bit."
ATWATER -- Ben Peterson poured in 28 points as Atwater (1-0 CCC, 12-6) got up early and never eased up in a victory over Merced.
Travante Richard had a team-high 18 points for the Bears (0-1 CCC, 7-11) in the loss.
Buhach Colony 69, Pitman 29
ATWATER -- Roger Klauser scored a game- high 15 points as 11 different Thunder players found their way into the score sheet in a rout of Pitman.
Felix Boruell had 10 points for Buhach Colony (1-0 CCC, 13-5) and Tyler Dew added nine.