East Nicolaus loving home hardwood
With senior starting center Jamie Salcedo struggling Saturday night, junior backup Jesse Evans came off the bench to score 17 points and clear 12 rebounds, and the host East Nicolaus High boys basketball team beat Live Oak, 64-54, in the finale of the “For Love of the Game” Tournament in Trowbridge.
Collin Chandler also had a good night for the Spartans (5-5), finishing with 15 points, while Salcedo scored 14 points and Martin Van Dyke added 11.
Salcedo has been the Spartans' main option this season, but he struggled to find the hoop early against the Lions (6-6), and shot just 40 percent (6-for-15) for the game.
“He's been our go-to guy,” said East Nicolaus coach Tyson Earhart. “He's been an automatic 15 points for us every night. When he plays well down low, it opens things up for our guards because he attracts so much attention.”
Live Oak's Kyle Mills led all scorers with 20 points and Chris Harris finished with 15.
The Lions jumped out to a 14-6 lead early, but eight unanswered points by Van Dyke tied the game at 14 after one quarter.
Rj Raju hit a 3 to open the second frame, but Chandler answered with his own 3. Salcedo then added a bucket to give East Nicolaus its first lead, 19-17, with 6:56 to play in the quarter.
Raju hit another 3 to regain the lead for Live Oak on the next possession, and the Lions held onto the advantage for another three minutes until another Chandler 3 tied the game at 29 with 3:35 left in the half.
The Lions trailed 36-32 coming out of the half, but rallied for a 7-2 run to grab the lead once more, 39-38, at the 4:56 mark of the third quarter.
But that lead only lasted a moment as Kyle Bloom hit a bucket on the next possession to make it 40-39 for East Nicolaus, and the Spartans never trailed again.
Up 51-47 with six minutes left, Evans scored second-chance buckets on three straight possessions after grabbing rebounds on missed shots by Salcedo, Dillon Kester and Van Dyke.
That sparked a 15-3 run that gave the Spartans a 14-point cushion at 64-50 with 1:30 to play. Mills hit his fourth 3-pointer and Tim Hysmith connected on 1-of-2 free throws for the final 64-54 margin.
It's the second time this week the former league opponents have played each other. Live Oak won Tuesday's meeting, 69-49.
“East Nicolaus played a very up-tempo game and a very good defensive game,” said Live Oak coach Brad Mills. “That probably kept our shooting down. My hat's off to them for playing a good game.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Nathan D. Collier can be reached at 749-4714. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.