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Rivalry renewed between Pierce and East Nicolaus
Spartans, Bears hook back up in SVL
Rivalries have taken hold of the prep basketball scene this week in the Mid-Valley with several marquee matchups highlighting the docket.
On Tuesday, Lindhurst battled Marysville for a hard-fought Golden Empire League victory, while River Valley and Yuba City will lock horns tonight at Falcon Gymnasium.
Sandwiched in between those tilts was Wednesday's game between a couple of Northern Section programs from small pockets of Colusa and Sutter counties that have been going after each other longer than both of the aforementioned rivalries.
After a four-year hiatus, Pierce and East Nicolaus renewed their rivalry in the Sacramento Valley League for the first time since the 2007-08 season as the Bears took down the Spartans 47-36 in Nicolaus.
That '07-'08 season was also the Bears' last league championship. Pierce's last deep playoff run in 2009 was ended by East Nicolaus.
The Bears (12-5, 5-1) are currently tied with Live Oak atop the SVL standings.
The second cycle of league play continues tonight when Pierce travels to Durham. The Bears only loss in SVL play came on Friday night at Willows, a 64-60 setback.
"This part of the schedule is tough right now because we have four straight road games," said Pierce coach Noah Gomez. "If we can get through this we should be OK and hopefully we can keep this rolling into playoffs."
Pierce opened Wednesday's game with a 14-2 run, yet East Nicolaus (6-10, 3-3) worked its way back into contention, cutting the Bears' lead to 32-28 in the fourth quarter.
The Spartans struggled shooting from both the field and free-throw line, leading to their demise in the fourth quarter.
East Nic shot 19 percent over the final 8 minutes of play and made 1 of 7 free throws. Overall, the Spartans held a field-goal percentage of 22 and made just 5 of 16 free throws.
"If we shoot anything even remotely respectable, I think we have a good chance to win the game," said second-year East Nicolaus coach Tyson Earhart. "Shooting for us all season has been either really good or bad.
"We've been playing a lot better than our performance tonight would indicate, which makes it a little more disheartening."
Joel Hernandez nailed a huge 3-pointer for Pierce midway through the fourth quarter to give his team an 11-point lead that stifled East Nicolaus' rally.
Oscar Dorantes scored six of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and he hauled in seven rebounds for the Bears. Andy Corona was one rebound shy of a double-double and he scored 10 points. Hayden Kalfsbeek added 10 points for the Bears.
Pierce had its own shooting problems as the Bears only made 26 percent of their shots, which included a 5-for-29 stretch in the second and third quarters.
"Our biggest thing is being able to control the ball offensively and not force up quick shots," Gomez said. "We need to have patience with our offense."
Adam Driver led East Nicolaus with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Drew Orr tacked on nine points and six boards. Zach Schuler was solid in the post with seven boards and eight points.
The Spartans head to Esparto on Friday night.
"We still have some chances to redeem ourselves," Earhart said. "If we play well in those games, we're feeling pretty good about ourselves."