It’s safe to say 2018 is off to a great start for El Capitan High boys basketball coach Adrian Hurtado.
The early highlight of the year came this past weekend when Hurtado proposed to his girlfriend Nayeli Deniz. If you’re wondering, she said yes.
Things are also running good on the court where Hurtado’s Gauchos are sitting all alone atop the Central California Conference after a big 48-36 win over Turlock at Bulldog Arena on Wednesday night.
So what was tougher for Hurtado, popping the question or sweating out a gritty road win?
“Definitely the proposal,” Hurtado said. “I had 60 to 80 family members there and I had to propose in front of them. There was a lot more pressure.”
The matchup against Turlock (9-12 overall 4-3 CCC) was much different than the first time the two teams met. El Capitan won that game easily 63-40 on January 3.
Hurtado knew it would be much different at Turlock.
“Absolutely,” Hurtado said. “This is a game we had circled before the start of league. It’s a dungeonous atmosphere in here. Turlock does a good job of slowing things down and making you earn every point. We had a three-man crew which our guys had to adjust to, we just had to grind this one out.”
The game was tight throughout with Dillon Greenwood making a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give the Gauchos (17-5, 6-1 CCC) a 24-21 lead at the half.
Turlock never went away, pulling within 34-33 at the end of the third quarter.
However, El Capitan senior TJ Wills hit two key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Gauchos pull away.
The first one came on the first possession of the fourth quarter as he drained a shot from beyond the arc from the left side that gave El Capitan some breathing room at 37-33.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Wills hit another 3-pointer from almost the same spot as the shot clock ran down to extend the Gauchos’ lead to 40-33 with 3:48 left on the clock.
“It was a one-point game, I was shooting bad and my teammates just kept me up,” said Wills, who finished with 13 points. “I kept shooting and helped my team get a lead. That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t matter who scores for us.”
Wills said he was unaware the shot clocking was running down until he heard the bench shouting three, two, one.
“That was huge,” Hurtado said. “That was a mistake on our end. Our bench didn’t start counting down until it got to the end of the shot clock. We always talk about seniors stepping up and TJ did that tonight with a couple big shots.”
Marcus McCutchen led the Gauchos with 14 points. Six of the points came on successful inbound plays from underneath El Capitan’s own baskets as the Gauchos took advantage of McCutchen’s 6-foot-4 frame against smaller Turlock guards.
Dominique Navarette played a big role on the defensive end in the first half for El Capitan, recording five blocks in the first two quarters. Three of the blocks came while guarding Turlock’s 6-8 sophomore center Everett Johnson, who led the Bulldogs with nine points.
The win keeps El Capitan all alone atop the CCC. Golden Valley trails by one game.
“We knew if Turlock won this game they would be tied with us for first place,” Wills said. “We want to win CCC. This game was huge. It’s really a tough environment and we were able to pull it out.”
Golden Valley 75, Buhach Colony 56 in Merced – The Cougars (16-6, 5-2 CCC) pulled away by outscoring the Thunder 27-12 in the fourth quarter. Golden Valley ended the third with a two-point lead.
Etrell Bowers scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter for the Cougars, who travel to Pitman on Thursday night. Cyrus Allen added 19 points and Bryan Livesay scored 15 for Golden Valley.
Anoop Nagra led Buhach Colony (2-5 CCC) with 12 points.
Stone Ridge Christian 4, Big Valley Christian 1 in Merced – Bryce Louters and Marco Azevedo both scores two goals to lead the Knights. Tyler Louters picked up all four assists for the SRC.
Atwater 1, Pitman 1 in Atwater – Aziel Gutierrez scored the Falcons’ lone goal on a pass from Sebastian Magana in a draw with the Pride. Leo Diaz finished with three saves for Atwater (8-4-6 overall, 3-0-4 CCC).
Felipe Lopez scored Pitman’s goal on an assist from Daniel Borges.
Buhach Colony 2, Golden Valley 1 in Merced – The Thunder (5-2 CCC) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half on goals from Sebastian Barragan and Marlo Arteaga. Golden Valley’s Kevin Garnica scored the Cougars’ goal late in the second half.
Stone Ridge Christian 4, Big Valley Christian 0 in Merced – Maartje Vander Dussen scored two goals and assisted on two goals by teammate Melanie Jimenez as the Knights 4-3 in the Central California Athletic Alliance.
Merced College 92, Fresno City 82 in Merced – Six Lady Blue Devils finished in double-figures as Merced College won a key Central Valley Conference matchup against the Rams.
Shea Glasglow-Williams led the way for MC with 19 points and eight rebounds. Suzuna Shoji came off the bench to score 16 points for Merced College, which is tied for No. 2 in the Northern California rankings with College of the Sequoias. Trinity Washington added 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Merced College, which improved to 20-3 overall and 6-0 in the CVC.