Kory Johnson and his frontcourt mates on the Davis High boys basketball team will lose the height matchup in almost every game this season.
Lance Castaneda checks in at 6-foot-2, followed by a bunch of 6-footers. But they make up for the height by throwing their stocky bodies around with abandon.
"We aren't the tallest team," Johnson said. "But we feel we can bang down low with anyone."
With their Modesto Metro Conference opener against Downey in doubt, the Spartans started going inside on every possession. It paid off, as Davis pulled away for a 45-37 victory Friday night at Davis High Gymnasium. The Spartans (10-7, 1-0) outscored the Knights 14-5 in the pivotal third quarter.
Neither team could get much going offensively. It was a combination of cold shooting and tough defense on both sides.
"Once league starts, you're going to go to your defense," Davis coach Dan Pacheco said. "This was a hard-fought game."
The Knights (7-10, 0-1) hung in thanks to 15 points from senior guard Pedro Guzman, and only trailed 28-24 early in the third quarter.
But Pacheco set a new strategy in motion during a timeout, and it worked.
"In the first half, we only shot (four) free-throws," Pacheco said. "That had to change."
He told the Spartans to get the ball inside.
"We were settling for too many jumpers," Johnson said. "Once we got the ball inside, either we scored or we got fouled and made our free-throws."
Johnson scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Spartans pulled away. Senior guard Ryan Michael (team-high 15 points) also made two free-throws down the stretch.
"We made too many turnovers to start the second half," Downey coach Doug Streeter said. "And soon after that, they started scoring. In a game like this, points are at a premium."
The MMC switched to a double round-robin league format, which means the games are at a premium as well. Both Downey and Davis play Enochs -- also considered a league contender -- next week.
"It looks like anybody can win any game," said Streeter, whose Knights play Enochs on Wednesday. "We'll find out where we're at right off the bat."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.