After losing two tough games last week, the Golden Valley High basketball team went from playing for a conference championship to playing for their playoff lives.
The Cougars moved a step closer to securing a postseason berth with a 61-32 win over Atwater on Wednesday night at Cougar Arena.
“I was doing my best to model playoff intensity from them from the bench,” said Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter, whose team improved to 18-8 overall and 7-4 in the Central California Conference. “We tried to raise the intensity to another level, on the defensive at least. That’s effort which is something we can control.”
It was a long night for the Falcons, who lost two starters in Ashton Jantz and JJ Ramirez to leg injuries in the game.
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Atwater (10-14 overall, 1-8 CCC) made just 11 of 50 shots from the floor. The Falcons had just 15 points at the half and that was with a half-court shot from Saul Avitia, who has become Mr. Half-Court Shot this season, at the end of the half.
“I thought our defense was as good as it has been all season in the first half,” Hunter said. “Our ball pressure was great. It was tough for Atwater to get up a shot.”
Despite shooting 8-of-34 in the first half, the Cougars were able to build a 30-15 lead.
Golden Valley’s offense got on track in the third quarter as Devon Martinez (11 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers and Cyrus Allen scored seven points. Allen finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
The player who stole the show on senior night was Luther Gallashaw, who finished with a career-high 15 rebounds to go with his six points.
“We got into the locker room and it felt like Luther had scored 25 points with all those boards he got,” Hunter said. “What a great performance with 15 rebounds. He gobbled up a lot of boards from outside his area. He moved his feet and he grabbed some rebounds that were 10 feet away from him. That’s the kind of hustle we need.”
The Cougars used an 18-2 run to start the second half to put the game out of reach at 48-17 with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
Saul Avitia, who poured in 27 points with the help of six 3-pointers in the first game against Golden Valley, was held to just eight points.
Etrell Bowers finished with 12 points for Golden Valley.
Golden Valley can now clinch a playoff spot with one more Pitman loss or if the Cougars can defeat Merced on Wednesday in the season finale. Golden Valley has a bye on Friday night. The Pride finish with El Capitan on Friday and at Turlock next week.
Turlock 62, Merced 55 in Turlock – The Bears’ cruel season continues with a second consecutive double-overtime loss to the Bulldogs (12-12, 7-3 CCC). Turlock outscored Merced 7-0 in the second overtime to get the win as Adrian Espinoza led the Bulldogs with 23 points.
Merced’s Anthony Robinson hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Bears then built a five-point lead in the first overtime period, but two turnovers helped the Bulldogs pull even and force the second overtime.
Jeremy Redwine scored 18 points to lead the Bears (13-12, 3-7 CCC), who have lost all seven of their conference games by seven points or less.
El Capitan 78, Buhach Colony 49 in Atwater – The Gauchos picked up their 20th win of the season with their seventh consecutive victory. Marcus McCutchen scored 21 points to lead El Capitan (20-5, 9-1 CCC). Mark Sellers added 19 for the Gauchos.
Dante Cloy and Brandon Lyons each scored eight to lead the Thunder (10-14, 2-7 CCC).
Golden Valley 4, Atwater 1 in Merced – The Cougars handed the Falcons their first CCC loss as Thomas Rowan, Cristian Gaona, Humberto Manzo and Carlos Garcia scored goals. Gaona also recorded two assists for the Cougars (1-8-2 CCC).
Armando Ramirez scored the Falcons’ lone goal as they dropped to 3-1-6 in the CCC.