Mark Sellers took a goose egg the first time El Capitan played Golden Valley. The Gauchos senior made up for it on Wednesday night.
Sellers scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge 3-pointers to help lead El Capitan to a 66-56 win over the Cougars in a Central California Conference showdown between the top teams in the conference in from of a jam-packed crowd at the Stable Center.
The win gives the Gauchos a strong grip on the program’s first CCC championship. El Capitan has a two game lead over GV with the Gauchos only having three games left on their schedule.
“These kids have earned every single win, they’ve earned all the glory, all the retweets, they’ve earned everything,” said El Capitan coach Adrian Hurtado. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’m happy to see them get rewarded.”
Sellers picked a good time to score his season high.
“The last time at GV, I didn’t score at all,” Sellers said. “I knew I had to come up with a good game tonight.”
Sellers and fellow senior Angel Serena helped the Gauchos (19-5 overall, 8-1 CCC) turn the game around in the fourth quarter.
Golden Valley (17-7, 6-3) had seized control of the game by closing out the third quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 40-37 lead. The Cougars then turned two quick turnovers into layups to extend the lead to 44-37 after a Devon Martinez steal and layup with 7:28 left in the game.
The Gauchos responded with a 7-0 run as Sellers drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 44-44 with 5:57 left on the clock.
After Cyrus Allen., who finished with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, scored inside to give the lead back to the Cougars at 46-44, El Capitan took over.
It started in transition after a missed 3-pointer in the corner by Martinez. The Gauchos came down and the ball found it’s way to Sellers as the top of the key – swish.
Next trip down, Serena in the right corner for three – swish.
Just like that, El Capitan was in front 50-46 with 3:38 remaining.
“At their place we shot 2 for 18 from behind the three-point line,” Sellers said. “We knew at home we would get hot. It was just a matter of when.”
“Those were huge,” added Hurtado. “To get back-to-back shots like that. We went dry for a while. We were down by seven and in this game it felt like 20.”
Sellers drained another 3-pointer to extend the Gauchos’ lead to 55-50 with 1:40 left in the game. He then made a big block on the other end on a Martinez layup attempt.
“I’m proud of the way our guys battled,” Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said. “We were down early double-digits. Our guys fought their way back in it and we were up seven points. We make a couple fouls, they make a couple 3-pointers. We did what we needed to do, but they just made the shots. You have to give their guys credit.”
El Capitan then put the game away on the free throw line. Livesay was called for a foul on a Serena shot. Hunter had some choice words for the referee who made the call and drew a technical foul.
Serena made three of the four free throws to extend the lead to 58-50 with 53.7 seconds left, which all but sealed the game.
Serena continues to make a strong case for CCC Most Valuable Player as he finished with 21 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
“Absolutely,” Hurtado said. “He’s just bringing it all together. He’s a stud right now. There are times I don’t even have to coach him. A couple times I handed him the white board and let him draw up a play for him to get the ball where he wanted. I trust him that much.”
Pitman 50, Merced 45 in Merced – The Bears (13-9, 3-5 CCC) jumped out to a 22-0 lead in the first quarter, but went cold the rest of the way. Merced didn’t score over nine points in either of the final three quarters, including a six-point fourth quarter as the Pride (17-7, 5-4 CCC) pulled off a wild victory.
“We couldn’t buy a basket,” said Merced coach Hector Nava. “We started off hot, extremely hot. Then we got to the point where we struggled to make a layup.”
Dominick Von Waaden and Christian Williams both scored 20 points to lead Pitman.
Jeremy Redwine led the Bears with 20 points. Merced travels to El Capitan on Friday in a must-win game for the Bears.
Turlock 61, Atwater 36 in Turlock – The Bulldogs routed the Falcons to remain in the playoff hunt in the CCC at 4-3. Saul Avitia led Atwater with 12 points and Ashton Jantz added 10 points.
Dos Palos 3, Mendota 1 in Mendota – Carlos Escalante scored 2 goals and Victor Rivas added a goal in the second half for the Broncos.
Golden Valley 2, El Capitan 2 in Merced – The Cougars and Gauchos played to a draw. Thomas Rowan and Carlos Melgarejo scored goals for Golden Valley (4-10-5 overall, 0-2-7 CCC).
Fabian Govea scored both El Capitan goals. The Gauchos are now 7-3-4 overall and 2-2-4 in the CCC.
Atwater 1, Turlock 1 in Turlock – Aziel Gutierrez scored on an assist for Anthony Naranjo for the Falcons’ lone goal. Jairo Vega scored for the Bulldogs (13-4-5, 4-1-3 CCC).
Leo Diaz had four saves for Atwater (8-4-8, 3-0-6 CCC).
Millennium 3, Stone Ridge Christian 1 in Merced – Bryce Louters scored the Knight’s lone goal in a home loss to the Falcons.
Le Grand 2, Denair 0 in Le Grand – Andres Lua scored twice to help the Bulldogs improve to 9-1-2 overall and 8-0-2 in the Southern League. Lua has scored 27 goals this season.
Stone Ridge Christian 3, Millennium 2 in Tracy – Maartje Vander Dussen scored two goals and assisted on Melanie Jimenez’s goal as the Knights picked up a road win.