OAKDALE — Enochs High's inexperienced backcourt did an impressive job handling the constant pressure thrown at it Tuesday, and that allowed the Eagles to stay close to rival Davis through three quarters.
Then the fourth quarter arrived: Davis turned up the intensity just about the time Enochs began to tire, or perhaps the Eagles' fatigue was the result of having to constantly fend off multiple defenders.
"We came in knowing we had to be on their guards the whole night, because we had to force a faster pace," Davis guard Donte Walker said. "We couldn't let them set up their offense and go inside to their big guys."
Davis began to see the fruits of its labor in the final quarter, as the aggressive trapping created chaos and allowed the Spartans to pull away for a 66-51 in the semifinals of the 40th Oakdale Rotary Classic.
"It's not a set zone, or a traditional man, because we don't use it all the time," said assistant coach Chris Guptill, whose Spartans (11-4) face Johansen in tonight's 8 o'clock final. "Our guards are pretty good at reading the opposition and knowing when to go to it. We rely on their instincts."
Walker and backcourt mates Edwin Castellanos and Laron Thompson began overplaying Enochs' guards to open the fourth quarter in an effort to pull away.
Adam Gong hit a 3-pointer with 6:50 to play to give Davis a 53-50 lead, and the Spartans quickly set up their press rather than race back to play a traditional defense. Enochs quickly turned the ball over ... and then turned it over ... and turned it over again.
Jalen Jimerson converted the first turnover into a basket, with a nifty assist from Lance Castaneda, and Walker hit two free throws after the next turnover to build a 57-49 lead. Enochs' 6-foot-8 Abel Watts made it 57-51 by scoring off a missed shot, but that did little to stem Davis' momentum.
Time after time, Enochs was unable to run its offense because the Spartans kept jumping into the passing lanes or stripping the ball.
The Eagles committed turnovers on 11 of 12 possessions during a five-minute span in the fourth quarter, and scored just two points in the final period.
"Enochs was beating our pressure with layups in the first half, but I think we made better decisions on when to press and when to play man defense in the second half," Guptill said. "We don't match up with their height, but we felt we had an advantage in the backcourt. Our kids can get aggressive."
Enochs (10-5) trotted out a front line that featured Watts, 6-7 Tyler Galloway and 6-6 Scott Robertson, and the Eagles' early focus was on stopping 6-1 forward Kory Johnson.
They held Johnson to six points — the first time he's been kept to single digits.
With the defense looking inward, though, Walker was allowed to run the perimeter and scored 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter. He hit a trio of 3-pointers, and then went quiet until scoring six in the fourth quarter.
"Enochs had a good plan for Kory and it worked. Kory was getting frustrated, but Lance stepped up and gave us a great game," Guptill said.
The 6-3 Castaneda, in addition to defending Enochs' big men, scored 13 of his 15 points in the second and third quarters. His free throw late in the third quarter gave Davis its 50-49 lead.
He didn't score in the fourth quarter, but his quick feet and long arms were crucial on defense.
"Lance gave us a big boost, but I think the pressure we were applying also says that we've got a deep bench," Guptill said. "They're working hard on defense, so it helps to bring in fresh players."
Enochs lacked that depth, due in part to the loss to junior guard Matt Iles last week. He broke his shooting hand and will miss at least the next four weeks after the injury was diagnosed Tuesday as a spiral fracture.
That forced Whitehurst and freshman Brandon Burns to carry the bulk of the ballhandling role, a difficult task for two players making their varsity debut this season. The only scoring Enochs received from its backcourt in the second half was a 3-pointer from Gilbert Martinez.
With the guards unable to run the offense, Robertson (10 points), Watts (10) and Galloway (eight) disappeared from the flow of the game for long stretches.
"When the big guys got the ball, we doubled down on them and got our hands in there to swat the ball away," said Walker, whose steal and layup made it 63-51 with 1:58 to play. "It frustrates a big guy when a little guards gets his hands in there and starts grabbing the ball away."
CALAVERAS 48, RIVERBANK 47 — Zach Gonzalez scored 32 points, hitting four 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough as the Bruins fell to the Redskins and into today's seventh-place game against Hughson at 3:30.
LOS BANOS 75, HUGHSON 40 — Tyler Simmons scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, helping the Tigers to a 41-23 halftime lead to beat the Huskies.
Los Banos meets Calaveras today at 5 for fifth place. Oakdale and Enochs will square off for third place at 6:30 p.m.