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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaThe California Pintos boys basketball team lost to Southern Boone on Dec. 20.

The California Pintos boys basketball team came up short in their 72-55 loss to the Southern Boone Eagles on Dec. 20. The team is 2-4 on the year following the loss.

The Pintos kept it close throughout the first half, but the Eagles pulled away in the third quarter, where the Pintos struggled to score. Southern Boone soundly outscored the Pintos 23-9 in the third quarter.

Head coach Ron Lebel said the team struggled in the third quarter, going for longer stretches than he would have liked without scoring.

"We were down two points at half, and we came out in the second half and had a hard time scoring," Lebel said. "We went almost six minutes without a bucket. We (have) to find ways where we don't go stretches of four, five, six minutes without scoring against a good basketball team."

In the first quarter, California trailed 12-6 with under 1:30 left to go in the quarter. Trevor Porter made two free throws to make it 12-8 with just over 1 minute to go. After the Eagles made it 14-8, the Pintos responded with a basket to make it 14-10 right before the end of the quarter.

Early in the second quarter, the Pintos trailed 17-11, but a three-pointer by Calen Kruger made it a 17-14 game with 6:40 left to play in the half. Southern Boone went on a 6-2 run to make it a 23-16 game with under 5:30 left, but the Pintos got within two points following a 6-0 run of their own that ended with a three-pointer by Braeden Birdsong to make it a 24-22 game. Southern Boone led 30-22 with just around 3 minutes left in the half, but a three-pointer by Porter cut the lead down to 30-25 with just over 2 minutes to go. Near the end of the half, California trailed 35-28, but the Pintos ended the half on a 5-0 run that was capitalized by another three-pointer by Birdsong with just under 10 seconds left to make it a tight 35-33 score at halftime. Four of the Pintos' five three-pointers made in the game came in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, the Eagles quickly extended their lead to double digits, as they led by 10 points with the score 43-33 with less than 6 minutes to go in the quarter. The Pintos did not score until there was just under 4 minutes to go in the quarter, but a basket finally got them on the board and made it 48-35. California trailed by as many as 18 points in the quarter as Southern Boone led 53-35 at one point. California got the lead down to 14 points late in the quarter with the score 56-42, but the Eagles made a buzzer beater to end the quarter up 58-42.

Lebel said the difference in the first and second half is the team was able to convert its shots in the first half.

"Southern Boone did not really change the defense on us or do anything different. We just went through a stretch of not making a shot for six minutes," Lebel said. "High school basketball is high school basketball — if you are making shots and the crowd is getting excited, your players are feeding off it a little bit, and with the energy we played in the first half we were hitting some shots. Like I said, I don't know if Southern Boone did anything different, and we just went a stretch about six minutes and like I said, we missed some easier shots, and we did not get to the free throw line and just went pretty cold. It took us forever to finally get a bucket."

Lebel said the team is trying to grind in some ways and continue to find ways to score.

"We have done a lot of shooting in practice. We have talked to them about taking shooting practice (seriously) and work on their free throws and work on their form. Basically, we are trying to work on being a better offensive team," Lebel said.

California started the final quarter on a nice 6-2 run to make it a 60-48 game with less than 6 minutes to go. Despite the positive start, the Pintos were unable to get the lead back down to single digits as they trailed 64-52 with 4:20 left in the game. The Eagles ended the game by outscoring California 8-2 in the game's final minutes.

Braeden Birdsong led the way for California with 15 points, while Calen Kruger and Trevor Porter both added nine points each.

The Pintos' next game is at 11 a.m. Dec. 28 vs. the Clopton Hawks at Moberly Area Community College.

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