The Pintos came from behind in Thursday's Class 3 District 8 semifinal game against Eugene to give the Eagles more than they had bargained for. Trailing 17-6 after one quarter and 24-17 at the half, California scored 14 to Eugene's 16 in the third quarter, then outscored the Eagles 21-13 in the final frame. It just wasn't quite enough to put the Pintos over the top, as top-seeded Eugene came away with the win, 53-52, but nobody can say California didn't battle to the end. "It was a great game that I think we should've won," California Coach Blair Scanlon said. "We slowed the pace down and messed up their rhythm and flow. By us slowing down, it made them slow down, which isn't what Eugene is used to. I think we outplayed them, but what hurt us was our turnovers. We played good, but 17 turnovers hurt us."
Jaden Barr led California (18-8) with 20 points, including three 3-pointers, and four assists. Cole George had 12 points including two 3-pointers and Landon Mouse had seven points.
Eugene (24-1 and ranked #1 in Class 3) was led by Ty Kempker with 20. The Eagles went on to defeat third-seeded Blair Oaks 58-40 Saturday to clench the district title. Eugene will play Palmyra at 7:45 p.m. today (Wednesday) at Class 3 Sectionals at Mexico High School. Previously in the first round of district play Feb. 25, the Pintos defeated Hallsville 68-66 in triple overtime to advance to semifinals. The win was extra sweet since the Pintos had lost to the Indians in their previous meeting Jan. 31 at Hallsville, 77-76 in triple overtime. This time around, after an even 14-14 first quarter and 9-9 second, the Indians outscored the Pintos 13-12 in the third quarter to lead 36-35 going into the final frame. California outscored Hallsville 15-14 to even the score at 50-50 by the end of regulation. Both teams scored 10 points in the first overtime, then two points in the second to even the score at 62-62. In the third and final overtime, with just 13 seconds left on the clock, senior Austin Gump drained a 3-pointer to give California a 68-66 edge and ultimately the win. "It should've been over after the first overtime," Scanlon said. "But we survived. It just shows how tough our district was this season."
California was led by Dylan Albertson with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Damon Shaw had 11 points and eight rebounds. Barr scored 10 points and Drew Norton had six rebounds. "We only had six turnovers," Scanlon said. Hallsville was led by Sean Wooten with 20 points and Ryan Long with 11. "Just because we didn't achieve our goals of winning our conference and district and 20-plus games, goals that I personally set, doesn't mean we weren't successful," Scanlon said. "Four of our losses were by four points or less, and we won our first California Tournament in 25 years. Our schedule and conference were tough, and our long football season gives us a later start in basketball."
Scanlon said this year's six seniors will be missed. "They did a lot for us. But we will have four letter winners back and a lot of good JV athletes. We'll be okay."