News of Atwater’s upset over Turlock quickly spread through Cougar Arena on Friday night.
The Golden Valley boys’ 77-57 win over Pitman instantly became a little sweeter as the Cougars pulled into a three-way tie atop the Central California Conference with Turlock and Merced at 3-1.
That sets this week up to be a big one for Golden Valley, Merced and Atwater.
The Cougars play at home on Wednesday against Merced and on Friday against Turlock. The Bulldogs handed Golden Valley its only conference loss on Jan. 10.
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“That’s a fun week of basketball,” Cougars senior Evan Stillahn said. “That’s two exciting games. We have to take care of our rival before we can worry about Turlock.”
Golden Valley has won eight of the past nine games against Merced.
The Falcons may have saved their season with their big 55-53 win over Turlock. Atwater had lost its first three CCC games. A fourth loss this early may have ended any hope Atwater had of earning a top-three finish in conference to qualify for the playoffs.
Atwater can make a big push to get back in the playoff hunt this week with games at Buhach Colony on Wednesday and at home on Friday against Merced.
“This week is crucial to get back in the playoff game,” Atwater coach Tony Hillyer said. “We’re playing a team that plays with a lot of energy in Buhach Colony and a team in Merced that’s playing really good basketball.”
Meanwhile, the CCC girls race features some key matchups this week as well.
Both Buhach Colony and Atwater are tied atop the conference at 3-0. Merced is one game behind at 2-1.
The Bears will host the Thunder tonight in a rematch of a game won by Buhach Colony 42-30 on Dec. 6 at the Golden Valley Tournament.
Buhach Colony will then travel to Atwater on Thursday night to face its crosstown rivals.
“It is challenging for sure,” Thunder coach Shane Gentry said. “I feel like we have an opportunity to play – between Merced and Atwater – the two best teams in our league. We had Merced early and they’ve gotten better. It’s just going to be who wants it more. It will be a tight game. There will be a lot of energy.”