Thunder boys eliminated in first round

slynch@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 20, 2013 

ELK GROVE -- Stephen Hillyer couldn't help but get sentimental when talking about the Buhach Colony senior class.

The core of the Thunder boys basketball team had played together all their lives. And the realization that the run was over following Wednesday night's 89-88 loss to Cosumnes Oaks in the first-round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 playoffs was just setting in.

"Having it end by losing by a point is what sucks," Hillyer said. "We grew up playing together. They're not just a team, they're my favorite people in the world."

That camaraderie was more than evident at the Wolf Den on Wednesday night as Buhach Colony refused to accept elimination until the final horn sounded.

Not much went right for the Thunder (19-10) in the second half.

Cosumnes Oaks (22-6) took control of the game with a 33-point outburst in the third quarter -- including a controversial technical foul that loomed large on the final score.

The Wolfpack took a 70-60 lead into the fourth quarter and still held an 8-point lead with under a minute to play.

But BC wouldn't yield.

Hillyer (17 points) led the charge nailing four of his five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

The senior cut the lead to five with 44 seconds to play and then to three with 33 seconds left after Cosumnes Oaks could only convert 1 of 2 free throws at the other end.

The Wolfpack turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and BC improbably had an opportunity to tie the game with 22 seconds to play.

The Thunder, unfortunately, never got a shot off. Roger Klauser (19 points, 12 rebounds) lost his handle while driving to the basket and Cosumnes came away with the loose ball.

Eric Toles converted 1 of 2 free throws to seal the victory. Klauser hit a 3 as time expired to make it a 1-point game.

"I'm very proud of the way these guys fought to the very end," BC head coach John Bliss said. "They hustled, scratched and clawed all night, doing the things you need to do to win. Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of it.

"I can't ever remember a game where I felt like an official decided the outcome, but you look at the technical foul and it made all of the difference in the final score."

Bliss shared his displeasure over the 6-0 foul discrepancy after Alex Van Dyke was sent to the line to shoot two a little over halfway through the third quarter.

"All I said was 'look at the fouls,' and apparently he thought I was being sarcastic," Bliss said.

Van Dyke hit both of his free throws and the Wolfpack converted one of the two technical shots. To add insult to injury, CO also scored on the ensuing possession to take a 58-49 lead.

Tough as the five-point swing was to swallow, Van Dyke was equally instrumental in the Wolfpack victory.

A couple early fouls limited the junior in the first half, but he went to work in the post in the second.

Every time Cosumnes needed a big basket, it went to Van Dyke. And he delivered, gashing the BC interior for 22 of his game-high 35 points in the second half.

"Some early fouls really got us out of our games in the first half," CO coach Patrick Roth said. "At one point we figured it's playoff basketball and we just had to go for it.

"We did a great job feeding our big guys in the second half and they executed for us."

Joe Marquez finished up his Thunder career with 24 points and Kaden Verdin added 12 points and eight rebounds.

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