The Modesto Metro Conference basketball season is a short one — only 10 games.
It's just long enough to produce a champion, but short enough to trip up any team's title hopes with only a single week of less-than-stellar play.
Davis High was on the verge of being the tripee in an MMC opener Friday night, falling behind Downey by nine points in the third quarter before going to back to basics and pulling out a 62-55 victory at the Knights' Gym.
For the Spartans (14-4 overall) back to basics means finding every possible way to feed the ball inside to Kory Johnson and Lance Castaneda. Johnson had 14 of his game-high 22 points in the final 11 minutes to allow Davis to pull away.
Until then, the Knights (4-14) had things their way. Staying in a zone and daring Davis to score from the outside, Downey succeeded in making Davis passive on both ends of the court.
Not only did the Spartans take the easy way out by shooting quickly instead of driving to the hoop or trying to get the ball inside, but they looked a step slow on defense and picked up multiple reaching fouls.
By halftime, Davis had committed 10 fouls to Downey's one, and trailed 32-30.
"We held our composure when things didn't go well in the first half and the fouls were backward for us," said Davis coach Dan Pacheco.
The Knights opened the third quarter on an 8-1 run to take a 40-31 lead with 5:46 left in the third quarter, forcing Pacheco to call a timeout to focus his team.
The message was simple — get the ball inside by any means possible.
"There's no way to stop them inside, so we just had to hope they would miss the 3s," said Downey coach Doug Streeter. "We got a little tired at the end, when they got some rebound baskets. As long as we were making shots, we were going to hang in there."
And as fatigue set in, Downey's shots stopped dropping. Michael Miller's 10-foot jumper with 6:46 left gave the Knights their final lead at 49-47, but Davis immediately embarked on a game-clinching 12-3 run, with all the points coming in the paint.
Guard Laron Thompson got to the basket for six points during the run and finished with 12 points, as did Castaneda and Edwin Castellanos. Rondiaron Estrada had 14 points, Patrick Looker had 13 and Jason Lee 11 for Downey.
For an MMC opener, it was a good show. The Downey gym was three-quarters full, with a strong student contingent in both Davis green and Downey blue.
"It will be a war every night in the MMC," Pacheco said. "Downey played well tonight, and the students were in the gym. That's really important because the spirit was there on both sides and the attitude was wonderful."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.