Yuba sputters in playoffs
FRESNO - The Yuba College men's basketball team picked a horrible time to lose its intensity and fire Thursday afternoon in the COA Basketball Championships Elite 8 at Selland Arena.
After building a 43-38 lead at halftime, thanks to 20 points from sophomore guard Mareceo Rutledge, the 49ers went absolutely flat midway through the second half and lost 82-75 to Ventura.
It was a game Yuba coach Doug Cornelius thought his club could have won.
“It was frustrating. I felt like we definitely did not play our best basketball,” Cornelius said. “I mean, if you go down kicking, screaming, fighting and lose, I can live with that. But I just felt like with about 10 minutes left, we were in the game.”
Rutledge was held to just six points after the break and Yuba, the fourth seed out from the North, couldn't convert on numerous second-chance opportunities. Ventura, the South's top seed, picked up its defensive intensity to wear the 49ers down and advance to the Final Four on Saturday.
The loss broke Yuba's 16-game winning streak and ended a season in which the 49ers (27-8) topped the school-record for wins and had three players sign NCAA Division I scholarships.
Yuba led 57-53 with 9:58 left in the second half, thanks to Rutledge hitting one of two technical foul free throws and a Rutledge to Demetrius Young connection for a bucket inside.
Cornelius said he thought the quick four-point surge would have ignited his team, but he saw something else on the court.
“I saw guys hanging their heads, and I don't know. I haven't seen that all year,” he said. “I don't know if the pressure was getting to them; they looked like they were a little tired.
“You can think of a million reasons when you look at a game like that, but the bottom line is we didn't play our best basketball. We got beat and we're going home.”
Yuba's advantage would soon evaporate as Ventura (27-6) used an 8-0 run over two minutes to take the lead for good, 62-57. Danny Tavares, Ventura's 6-foot-8 sophomore post, powered home a putback dunk to cap the run. He finished with 14 points, seven in the final eight minutes, and 12 rebounds.
Anthony Pimble highlighted Ventura's effort with eye-popping dunks off of offensive rebounds as well as in transition, finishing with a team-high 18 points while also clearing 10 boards and recording six steals.
Post Tavaris Gilbert added 17 points, Troy Watson scored 12 and Trevor Breland finished with 11 in the Pirates' balanced effort.
Rutledge, who finished with a game-high 26 points, and point guard Aaron Garner had a field day in the first half with Ventura's guards struggling to keep pace. Garner, who is headed to Boise State, added 24 points, 14 in the second half, including Yuba's final seven points of the game.
Rutledge has committed to attend UNLV. Young is headed to Marshall.
The Pirates were missing starting freshman guard Danny Benson to a foot injury and his presence was definitely missed.
However, Ventura fixed its guard woes after halftime, turning a lazy defensive effort into a tenacious, smothering attack, and Yuba couldn't handle the pressure.
“I think we started to fatigue down the stretch,” Garner said. “The last three minutes, we just had careless turnovers. We didn't do the little things, like not boxing out, and they just countered from our mistakes.”
Yuba pulled within three, 69-66, on a Young putback with 2:26 remaining and could get no closer than within five for the remainder of the game. Young finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
“I think they (the Pirates) really turned up the intensity after halftime, really go into it, started getting more physical and we didn't match their intensity,” Cornelius said. “We kind of just went down a little bit from what we did in the first half, and I don't know why.
“It's beyond me why you would not be as excited as possible about playing the game, especially when it's a team we could have beat.”
Yuba looked to be on its way to a first semifinal berth in school history after Rutledge's stunning first-half shooting clinic.
Rutledge could not miss, knocking down 3s, driving the lane for lay-ups and hitting incredible turn-around jumpers.
The 49ers also did just enough to keep the Pirates off the glass and out of the paint, building a nine-point lead, their largest of the game, 38-29, with 3:38 left in the first half.
“We were working the ball around and basically just taking our time and we didn't do much of that in the second half,” Rutledge said.
Ventura outscored Yuba 38-26 in the paint, and got 25 points off of turnovers, compared to Yuba's 15 points from turnovers. Another startling number was the Pirates' 24 points their bench contributed, compared to just two from the 49ers' reserves.
“What an unbelievable year,” Cornelius said. “The kids were great, a fun bunch to coach, to be around and just a bunch of great kids. It's too bad it had to end like that.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Justin Miller can be reached at 749-4796. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.