OAKDALE -- As tempting as it was to quickly push the ball upcourt and display his ballhandling skills, Enochs High guard Herbert Whitehurst resisted the urge to run and began his deliberate dribble up the floor.
It was a wise decision, as his patience allowed the Eagles' towering front line to position itself around the basket. By the time Whitehurst arrived, 6-foot-8 Abel Watts, 6-7 Ty Galloway and 6-6 Scott Robertson were in place and Enochs was able to exploit its height advantage.
"Our offense is based on getting the ball to the big men and letting them use their size inside," the 6-foot Whitehurst said.
"Sometimes we get out of our game and start pushing it too fast, and that takes the big men out of the game. We just have to remind ourselves to remain patient."
The Eagles did just that Monday, slowing the tempo in the second half and using their superior height under the basket to pull away from Riverbank for a 68-52 victory to open the 40th Oakdale Rotary Tournament.
Enochs' front line combined for 39 points, with Robertson scoring 19 and Galloway 14. Watts had only six points, but his passes from the high post and along the baseline created numerous opportunities for his mates.
"Abel's a powerful guy inside and the defense goes to him when he gets the ball," said Whitehurst, who added 12 points. "Scott's got size, but he also can go outside and hit the jumper. Ty's got that nice jump hook."
Enochs got itself in trouble when it tried to run with the smaller, faster Bruins, and the mistake allowed Riverbank to take a 36-34 lead on a 3-pointer from Alex Reynaga (13 points).
Zach Gonzales scored off a driving layup in transition, and the Bruins' lead grew to 45-38 when Jose Moreno went inside and scored over the top of Enochs' front line.
"That's when we slowed it down, taking more time so our big guys could get back into the offense," said Whitehurst, a junior who has had to adapt his game. "Last year, I pretty much had the green light to drive to the basket. This year, the priority is to get it into our big men. It's been an adjustment, the different playing style, but our strength is up front."
Galloway began the comeback by converting an offensive rebound, and then Gilbert Martinez nailed a 3-pointer over the 2-3 zone to bring Enochs within 45-43. After a Riverbank basket, the Eagles scored 10 unanswered points -- with Whitehurst grabbing a missed shot and putting it back in to cap the run and give the Eagles a 53-47 lead early in the fourth.
Robertson, Galloway and Watts combined to score 13 of Enochs' 23 fourth-quarter points. Watts, in the high post to capitalize on his passing ability, flipped the ball to Galloway on the baseline for a 57-50 lead with 4:45 to play and Whitehurst later hit a running jumper to make it 62-50.
While Enochs will continue to emphasize its frontcourt, Whitehurst will take on greater responsibility as the Eagles prepare for the Modesto Metro Conference schedule. Shooting guard Matt Iles broke his hand Saturday and could miss a few weeks or the season. Iles is seeing a specialist this week, and the Eagles are hoping for a positive prognosis.
DAVIS 68, CALAVERAS 53 Kory Johnson (21 points) and Donte Walker (18) combined for 39 points, but it was defense that allowed the Spartans (10-4) to pull away in the third quarter and set up tonight's 6:30 semifinal with city rival Enochs (10-4).
Davis was clinging to a 35-30 halftime lead, but opened the second half with a more aggressive man defense and held the Redskins to three points through the first five minutes. By the time the Redskins got their offense going again, they were trailing by a dozen points.
"We've got kids who can score, but now they're realizing that defense is what wins," coach Dan Pacheco said. "We want to push the ball and get a hand in the shooter's face, and we did that in the third quarter."
OAKDALE 64, HUGHSON 39 Jake Martinez (16 points) and Nate Madsen (12) combined for 28 points and the Mustangs (4-6) used a 16-6 third quarter to put away the Huskies (1-7).
Oakdale meets Johansen in tonight's 8 p.m. semifinal, while Hughson plays Los Banos at 5 and Calaveras meets Riverbank at 3:30.
JOHANSEN 72, LOS BANOS 32 The Vikings (9-5) raced to a 26-6 lead after one quarter behind Derek Singer (15 points) and Zeke Batt (12) on their way past the Tigers.