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Live Oak's ‘Big Three' have Lions roaring
Seniors Acosta, Kooner, Pamma leading the way
They are Live Oak High's version of the "Big Three," and the bond that Romario Acosta, Gurbeer Kooner and Aaron Pamma share is hard to match.
After years of playing everything from high school, AAU, church league and rec ball together, the Lions' senior trio have a feel for each other on the court that has become the driving force to Live Oak's success this season.
Acosta is the lightning-quick point guard who can both drive or shoot, Kooner is the inside presence with a soft stroke from the outside, while Pamma is the guy who can do a little bit of everything and is the unquestioned leader of the team.
All three feed off each other too, giving the Lions a true triple-threat each night offensively.
"That's how it is with Gurbeer, Aaron and Romario. If one's not on, one of the other ones usually is," said Live Oak coach Zach Wilson said. "It's like they take turns each game."
Taking turns is exactly what the three did on Wednesday night as Kooner scored nine points in the second quarter, Pamma dropped in six in the third and Acosta scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the fourth to propel the Lions to a 59-44 nonleague victory in Wheatland.
Kooner went on to finish with 14 points and Pamma dropped in 11 to go with eight rebounds for the Lions, who outscored the Pirates 21-10 in the second period and never looked back.
"We've been playing together for so long, we understand each other and play to our strengths," Pamma said. "We have good talent, good coaching and we complement one another. We just need to put it all together."
The victory improved the Lions' record to 10-3 on the year, and as Wilson noted, that record could be even better. In all three losses, Live Oak had the lead with 2 minutes left to play only to fall in the end.
The first loss came to undefeated Corning at the Pierce Tournament in the season opener, while the other two losses came to Lindhurst, a school that has more than twice the enrollment of Live Oak.
The Lions are also a perfect 4-0 in the Sacramento Valley League, and after a solid performances like the one they turned in on Wednesday night, many on the team feel they have a shot for the Northern Section Division IV title when the playoffs roll around.
"We have great chemistry with each other. We don't even have to talk out there, we just know what's going on," said Acosta, who also swiped four steals in the game. "We can go as far as we want to go."
Wilson said that playing defense and good team basketball will be the key for the Lions, and they did both against Wheatland.
By mixing up their zone and man-to-man defenses, the Lions forced the Pirates (10-6) into 16 turnovers and limited the hosts to 32-percent shooting from the field. Wheatland connected on just 6 of their 26 shots in the second half alone, many of them coming on good looks at the basket.
"They're a good team and did some things defensively, but we just didn't shoot the ball well tonight," Wheatland coach Jim Vossler said. "We got the shots we wanted and didn't make them, and they hurt us in transition. You can't defend a layup."
Josh Crawley led the Pirates with nine points, while Alex Mata and Taylor Balogi both scored eight.
Up next for the Lions is a SVL showdown at Pierce (9-4, 3-0) on Tuesday in a battle for first place.
The Pirates will travel to Hamilton on Friday for their final nonleague tune-up before beginning Butte View League play with Sutter on Tuesday.