REEDLEY — Sierra Pacific scored only six points in the fourth quarter, but it was just enough to survive a late rally in the opening round of the 3rd Annual Andrew Bedoya Holiday Classic on Wednesday night.
Leading 48-46 with 29.7 seconds left, Sierra Pacific had possession with the shot clock turned off. Inexplicably, they took an outside shot, which fell short and Golden West grabbed the rebound.
The Trailblazers couldn’t capitalize and missed a layup on the ensuing possession. With 7.7 seconds left and Sierra Pacific inbounding on the baseline, the Golden Bears were called for a foul before the play.
Golden West had one last chance.
Tucker Stainbrook dribbled the ball the length of the court and found himself getting to the basket with little resistance. Sierra Pacific guard Brian Quezada put his hands straight up as Stainbrook went for the layup.
The ball hung in the air and then hung on the back of the rim — for what seemed like an eternity — before gently rolling off to the side as the backboard lit up as time expired.
“Thank God he missed the layup,” a relieved Phillip Jackson said.
What looked like a game headed to overtime, resulted in a 48-46 victory over Golden West. Sierra Pacific coach Kenneth Vossler couldn’t help but smile as he put his hands on his head in stunned disbelief.
“We’re just so young that we don’t understand time and score yet,” Vossler said. “We took five shots in the last 30 seconds that we didn’t need to take.”
Sierra Pacific never trailed in the game and senior and captain Jeremy Perry scored a team-high 17 points with 12 in the first half. Perry dictated the offense and repeatedly found his teammates in the corners or under the basket for open looks.
“I came out just trying to win no matter what I have to do,” Perry said. “Pass, defensive-wise, scoring-wise, I just got in the zone real quick.”
With 3:54 left in the fourth quarter, Sierra Pacific had a 48-39 lead and the game seemed pretty much in hand. Their defense was making it tough for Golden West to get a clean look and Jackson and Quezada had just hit back-to-back layups as part of a 6-0 run.
But then the Golden Bears went cold.
Golden West put in two free throws with 2:42 left to cut the lead to seven. The Trailblazers got a putback on their next possession and Stainbrook then hit a straight away 3-pointer to make it 48-46 before the madness began.
“We have to knock out our turnovers,” Jackson said about the slow fourth quarter. “That’s what’s really hurting us right now. We have to take care of the basketball especially when the game is on the line.”
The beginning of the game was not indicative of how the game was going to end. Sierra Pacific was red hot from the tip and jumped out to a 13-0 lead. They did a great job of getting to the rim and running on the fast break that brought Golden West out of its 1-3-1 zone defense.
Golden West couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean to start and missed multiple easy layups. It wasn’t until the 1:51 mark did Golden West score its first points of the game on two free throws.
Sierra Pacific led 17-4 after the first quarter and continued its offensive flow into the second quarter. Jayson Littlejohn sparked the transition game with some monster blocks and allowed Perry to find space in the open court.
The Trailblazers were able to close the quarter with a couple of shots underneath the rim to make it a 29-22 game at halftime after switching to a 2-3 zone defense.
“I thought we had very good energy,” Vossler said. “We really defended in the first half. If we can put that kind of intensity through the ebbs and flows … and continue to defend like that, we’re going to be a pretty good team.”
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm coming out of the half, but were able to score late in the quarter. Jackson, who finished with eight points, hit a couple of timely 3-pointers to keep Golden West at bay any time they were trying to make a run. The game went into the fourth quarter with Sierra Pacific leading 42-35.
“I just had to find my rhythm,” Jackson, a senior, said. “Just kept shooting with confidence, just stayed confident in the whole process, just knew myself.”
The win was a good one for Sierra Pacific as they’re a Division 4 team and Golden West is a Division 3 team. The team expects to gain confidence from the game as they continue in the tournament, which runs through Saturday.
“It’s good for our team because we know how good we can be,” Perry said. “We know that we have a chance to run for Valley and that’s really our main focus right now, but we’re going to take it one game at a time.”