A bid by the No. 8 Pierce Bears to reach the regional semifinals of the Division V CIF State Boys Basketball Tournament came to an end last Thursday night on the road as they were unable to slow down No. 1 Mt. Shasta in the second half and suffered a 69-55 loss.
While Pierce kept it close in the first half, down just 31-29 at intermission, Mt. Shasta found the range from the outside in the third quarter, outscoring the Bears 22-12 to take a double digit lead which they would maintain throughout the remainder of the contest.
Sophomore Justin Mathews finished with a team high 20 points for the second game in a row, while senior Jonathan Corchado, in his final game for Pierce, added 11 points, and sophomore Eduardo Paiz chipped in with 10 points.
It was the second game of the week for the Bears, who to reach the tournament’s second round, staged a furious second half rally at home to edge Hoopa Valley 79-75 on Feb. 26.
Finding themselves down by as many as 14 points to the hot shooting and aggressive No. 9 Warriors, the Bears turned up the defense pressure and executed offensively to take a narrow one point advantage with three minutes remaining, then held on to put the game out of reach in the final minute.
Hoopa, a North Coast Section Division V semifinalist, was impressive, but had trouble defending against the Bear offense in the second half and then missed some key shots down the stretch.
Mathews poured in a team high 20 points including the final three to put the game away, while Corchado posted 19 points including athletic reverse layup in the third quarter that would ignite the comeback and the hometown crowd.
Also having a big game offensively was Eduardo Paiz who finished with 16 points.
Likewise, big men and fellow underclassmen Luke Voorhees and Alex High came through at key junctures helping to propel the Bears past the Warriors.
With the season’s end, the Bears say good-bye to Corchado, their most consistent performer and stabilizing force this year, who completed his three year varsity stint averaging 10.4 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Additionally, Pierce will lose the heart of their squad in guard Ramon Paiz, an unsung fixture in the Bears’ lineup over the past four years.
Still, the Bears have much to look forward to as they return a talented group including Daniel Medina, Eduardo Paiz, Mathews, Voorhees and High.
Pierce ends the season as the Sacramento Valley League champions with an overall record of 22-6.