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Live Oak boys clinch SVL title
League crown is first since 1999-2000 season
After blowing a 12-point halftime lead in a 53-43 loss at Pierce on Jan. 15, seniors Romario Acosta, Aaron Pamma and the rest of the Live Oak High boys basketball team entered Friday night's game looking to exact a small bit of revenge against the Bears and make a little bit of history in the process.
A win by Live Oak would lock up at least a share of the Sacramento Valley League crown and give the Lions their first boys basketball title since winning a co-championship in the 1999-2000 season.
The Lions knew what the game meant, and then they went out and took it.
Playing in front of a packed and energetic crowd at Ron Pritchard Gym on Senior Night, Live Oak jumped out to an 18-point lead at the half and kept the pressure on throughout to cruise home with a 60-35 victory over the first-place Bears.
It was the final regular-season game for the Lions (16-5), who wrapped up their SVL slate with a 10-2 record. Pierce (15-6) dropped to a 8-2 in league play with the loss, but can still claim a share of the league title by winning its final two games against Willows and East Nicolaus next week.
"When we come out and play like that, we're a tough team to beat," Live Oak coach Zach Wilson said. "The intensity was there tonight. They definitely wanted it."
Acosta got the Lions going from the start by scoring eight points in the opening 5 minutes to help stake the hosts to a 12-4 lead at the end of the first period. That trend continued into the second quarter as Live Oak outscored the Bears 20-10 to take a commanding lead into the break.
The most telling stat of the night? Acosta had 16 points at the half while the Bears totaled just 14 as a team.
"We came out fired up. We knew what was on the line tonight and we fed off the crowd," said Acosta, who finished with a game-high 24 points. "They hit a lot of 3s in the first meeting, so we knew we had to step out on their shooters and we did a good job of that."
Utilizing a swarming 2-3 zone, the Lions flew all over the court defensively and limited the Bears to 14-of-58 shooting from the field (31 percent) and went on to force 23 turnovers in the game.
"The shots weren't falling and we just had a tough time getting the ball in the hoop," Pierce coach Noah Gomez said. "It's hard to win a game when you only score 35 points."
Also coming up big for the Lions was Pamma, who turned in a solid all-around performance with 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven steals and four blocks. Fellow senior Tyler Raymond chipped in as well with eight points and 10 rebounds for the Lions.
"The difference tonight was our intensity. We got stagnant in the second half the last time we played them, but the crowd energized us tonight and we pushed the ball and got good shots," Pamma said. "It's been a while since we last won league — it feels amazing."
Andy Corona scored 14 points, and Oscar Dorantes and Jesus Huerta had six points each to lead the way for Pierce.