Keith Hunter says he gets a warm, fuzzy feeling when Evan Stillahn takes a shot.
You can imagine how the Golden Valley High boys basketball coach felt on Friday night as Stillahn continued his recent scoring surge with 24 points to lead the Cougars to a 77-57 win over Pitman at Cougar Arena.
“Evan is confident and he’s feeling good,” said Hunter, whose team improved to 16-5 overall and 3-1 in the Central California Conference. “He works extremely hard and he gets the most shots up of anybody around here. He should be feeling confident.”
Stillahn led the Cougars’ 3-point barrage with five of Golden Valley’s nine treys. The third-year starter has scored 23, 19, 23 and 24 points in his last four games. The Cougars have won all four.
“I’ve had the hot hand lately,” Stillahn said. “My teammates have been doing a good job of getting me the ball. Christian (Carroll), Ben (Fletcher) and Damian (Jimenez) have all done that. It’s nice to have teammates like that.”
The Cougars’ win combined with Atwater’s 54-53 upset of Turlock on Friday night pulls Golden Valley even with the Bulldogs (14-6 overall, 3-1) and Merced (15-6, 3-1) atop the CCC standings.
After jumping out to a 20-9 lead after the first quarter, the Cougars were forced to scramble after Pitman started the second quarter with a 10-0 run.
It was the Pride hitting all the shots as Cyle Williams (14 points) and Branson Garcia (26) combined for 18 of Pitman’s 24 second-quarter points that gave the Pride a 33-32 lead at intermission.
“As long as didn’t panic we were fine,” Hunter said. “We got the pace that we wanted. Pitman hit shots. They did a great job in the first half, but it’s a long game and we were ready to play 32 minutes.”
After making just 2 of 12 shots from beyond the three-point arc in the first half, the Cougars started draining shots from long range in the third quarter.
Golden Valley sank five 3-pointers in a stretch of 4 minutes and 43 seconds of the third quarter that saw the Cougars go on a 17-3 run to take a 52-39 lead with 1:51 left in the quarter.
Stillahn started the spurt with two quick 3-pointers. Carroll added a pair of treys and Devon Powell sank a shot from beyond the arc.
Stillahn added a 25-foot shot with 16 seconds left in the quarter to give the Cougars a 57-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
When the Cougars weren’t launching from long range, Josh Sykes was doing damage in the paint. The Cougars 6-foot-7 center finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three assists.
“Josh had more and-ones tonight that he’s had the last two or three weeks,” Hunter said. “It was nice to see him finishing.”
Turlock missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds.
“The last two or three games we were shooting bad,” Atwater coach Tony Hillyer said. “When teams come out of shooting slumps they come out big, and we scored 24 in the first quarter.”
Kenny Fraser led the Bulldogs with 20 points.