Sports

James Burns: First things first -- Golden Valley basketball can't overlook Buhach

James Burns, sports editor
James Burns, sports editor

Mike Dwyer couldn't resist the urge, so...

The Golden Valley statistician tempted karma and fired the million-dollar question.

Two games too soon.

Minutes before Golden Valley's 73-66 win at Turlock on Friday, Dwyer turned from his courtside seat and, as if he knew he were flirting with fate, nervously asked: "Did you see the Merced game? Classic, yeah? ... You going to be there next Friday?"

Dwyer was referring, of course, to Merced-Golden Valley I -- an 87-84 overtime thriller claimed by GV -- and the looming sequel.

No one can fault Dwyer's excitement or the timing of his question. It's been more than three weeks since the game went final and the goosebumps and butterflies are still there.

In five days, the crosstown rivals will rekindle their spirited fued.

And as usual, the stakes will be high. Sky high. Just one game separates front-running Merced (8-1) and Golden Valley (6-2) in the Central California Conference standings. Just a sliver of a point separates them in the Division I power ratings.

Merced survived a scare at Atwater on Friday, but rolls into the game with the confidence of a five-game winning streak.

More importantly, Marcus Knott's boys will be rested and ready. Or so we can presume.

Merced is idle on Wednesday, which means it will have no excuses.

No such luck for Golden Valley, which can't afford to tempt fate anymore than it already has.

They've still got one game on the schedule. And this, folks, is what we like to call "the trap."

With all due respect to the intra-city rivalry, Merced and all the pregame hype...

Wednesday's game at winless Buhach Colony might be bigger.

You know, over the long haul.

On paper, it doesn't look like much of a "trap," does it?

But...

Buhach Colony is better than its 0-8 record in league play, and there isn't a soul in the CCC that believes BC will go an entire season without one trip down Victory Lane.

If Golden Valley isn't careful -- and as razor-sharp focused as it was in Turlock -- Buhach Colony will spoil Friday's party before the first streamer flies. For all of its impressive wins, Golden Valley's schedule is sprinkled with head-scratching losses. Like the stinker at Sierra. Or the egg in Los Banos.

So will BC spring the upset?

Probably not, but in many ways they're the perfect candidate to club a title contender like Golden Valley.

Shooters everywhere.

Decent height and athleticism in all the right spots.

An unsung star in Hodari Peterson.

And a baseline-to-baseline style that has given a few playoff-bound teams fits.

"We play Buhach on Wednesday and I don't think they are going to go winless," Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said.

"We have to play that game on Wednesday and then we can talk about Merced."

There you have it.

Friday might be the big game -- Merced-Golden Valley II -- the one everyone can't stop talking about.

But don't sleep on Wednesday's tuneup: Golden Valley vs. Buhach Colony at the Thunder Dome.

It feels like a trap.

James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at jburns@mercedsun-star.com.

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