The power of a rivalry was on full display last Friday night at Don Bransford Gymnasium in Colusa as the underdog RedHawk boys basketball team gave a talented Pierce squad everything it could handle for four quarters before the Bears found their rhythm in overtime to escape with a 73-63 victory.
In a contest where many of the players are teammates in the AAU program, familiarity and nerves added to the unpredictability of the game, although early on the Bears seemed to have the upper hand getting transition baskets and exploiting the RedHawks’ man defense.
However an adjustment by the RedHawks to the trap and an uncharacteristic inability by the Bears to hit shots saw Colusa cut the lead to just five going into the locker room at intermission.
Bears coach Cody McCullough described the situation this way, “Once they switched to their trapping zone defense we began to change our shot selection a bit. When the shots stopped falling, our confidence lowered which allowed Colusa to gain momentum offensively and go on some runs to stay in the game. They also hit a lot of big shots that we failed to answer.”
In the second half, the RedHawks did just that, trimming the advantage to a single point with a minute and a half remaining in the game after Jojo Luna hit back-to-back threes.
Pierce’s Daniel Medina responded, knocking down a shot from the top of the circle, which was initially thought to be a three but was instead ruled a two point basket, although it still gave the Bears a 57-54 lead.
But the RedHawks were not going down without a fight as with 1.4 seconds on the clock, Mason Saso drained a long range three to send the game into overtime.
Undeterred however the Bears came out aggressively in extra time getting a big three from Justin Mathews who had been saddled with four fouls since the third quarter and followed it up on the next possession with another by Eduardo Paiz.
Pierce outscored Colusa 16-6 in overtime to come away with the victory much to the relief of McCullough and the Bear faithful.
“Ultimately, I am happy we were able to experience a great crowd, close game and come out on top in Colusa despite all the adversity we faced,” said the first-year head coach.
Christian Mata, a transfer from Colusa, dropped in a team-high 18 points against his former team while Mathews finished with 17 points and Paiz pitched in with 12.
For Colusa, coach Brian Davis, although preferring a different outcome, was thrilled with his team’s effort saying, “Although we’ve had our fair share of moral losses this season, I’m beyond proud of how our squad followed the plan, came in with a blue collar attitude, played fearlessly and had fun.”
Saso put forth a monumental effort for the RedHawks pouring in a game-high 31 points while big man Drew Bradbury showed versatility drilling a pair of shots from beyond the arc en route to a 10-point performance.
In other games last week, Pierce downed Live Oak 61-48 to open Sacramento Valley League play then dropped a non-conference game 83-54 to Piedmont, an East Bay school ranked as high as the second Division IV team in the state this season.
The RedHawks also picked up an SVL win on the road last week in Winters.
Both teams return to action this week with Pierce (17-3, 2-0) hosting Willows on Tuesday and Winters on Friday while Colusa (9-12, 1-1) had its only game at home against Live Oak on Jan. 21.