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story.lead_photo.caption Trevor Porter lays the ball up during the Pintos' loss to St. Elizabeth at the River Region Credit Union Shootout on Dec. 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Labotka / California Democrat.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The California Pintos boys basketball team could not keep up with its opponent, the St. Elizabeth Hornets, in the River Region Credit Union Shootout on Dec. 14.

The Pintos fell to the Hornets, ranked number two in the state in Class 1, by a 76-46 scoreline. The Pintos are now 2-3 on the year.

Head coach Ron Lebel said the game was part of a tough stretch for the Pintos, whose next two games are also against state-ranked teams.

"Going in today, we tried to explain to our guys that we are on the toughest three-game stretch of the season," Lebel said. "We went into the game telling our guys that it is going to be a tough stretch for us no matter how we look at it. But you know you come to compete, you can come and try to get better, and you can try to win a basketball game, and that is what we told them throughout the game. We are trying to get better. We are in a tough stretch here where we play three state-ranked teams in a row. After the three state-ranked teams, there are some winnable games. We want to continue to move in the right direction."

The Pintos kept it close for most of the first quarter as the game was tied 8-8 with just over 5 minutes to go in the quarter. The Hornets didn't let that trend continue for long, as they went on a 10-1 run to take a 18-9 lead with just under 3 minutes left in the quarter. The Hornets then started to pull even farther away. With 1:38 left, St. Elizabeth led 25-11. Trevor Porter scored the next four points for the Pintos to pull them back within 10 points at 25-15 at the end of the quarter.

The Pintos struggled from three-point range in the first half, as they shot 2-11 from deep.

Early in the second quarter, the Pintos trailed 29-15, but a three-pointer by Jordan Bondurant got it to 29-18. The Pintos would stay within 11 points until there was just under 4 minutes left in the half, when St. Elizabeth extended its lead to 38-24. The lead for the Hornets grew to 18 points with the score at 42-24. California managed to keep the deficit down to 19 points to enter halftime down 46-27.

In the third quarter, California trailed by 20 points late with the score 56-36 and 3:30 left to go in the quarter. The Hornets would end the quarter on a 12-2 run to extend their lead to 68-38. Both teams scored eight points each in the final quarter.

The Pintos were unable to create any turnovers in the game, which is a big part of their offense.

"We knew going in to the season that we do not have a go-to guy to do the scoring," Lebel said. "So we try to create turnovers, we try to get those second shots opportunities off offensive rebounds and hopefully down the line we will shoot better. We don't have a go-to guy to say, 'Hey, go get us 20 points tonight.' So we are trying to find some ways to figure out how to get some points on the board."

California did not force many fouls on the night, as St. Elizabeth only committed eight fouls in the game.

Trevor Porter led the way for the Pintos with 13 points, followed by Jordan Bondurant with 10 points.

Lebel said the team needs to attack the rim better with this loss in mind.

"We are not very aggressive around the rim," Lebel said. "We settled for a lot of three-pointers tonight. We have to attack the rim better to get to the free-throw line more."

Lebel said he wants the team to go into its next couple of games against ranked opponents to see if they can compete with them.

"We want to go into these games thinking we can compete, that we can get better, that we can execute better," Lebel said. "Those are the things we want to see going into these games, let's see if we can compete with them, let's see if we can get better, let's see if we can execute better. Those are some of the things that we can hopefully take out of the next couple of games."

The team's next game is 5 p.m. Dec. 20 at home against Southern Boone.

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