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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaBailey Lage saves the ball Dec. 4 during the Pintos’ loss to Blair Oaks in the third place game of the Tri-County Conference Tournament.

WARDSVILLE, Mo. — The California Pintos girls basketball team (1-2) finished in fourth place Dec. 4 at the Tri-County Conference Tournament after a 59-53 overtime loss to Blair Oaks in the third place game.

In its path to the season-opening fourth-place finish, California defeated Osage 71-46 in the first round Nov. 30 and lost to Southern Boone 73-70 in the second round Dec. 2.

In the game against Blair Oaks, it was a back-and-forth affair for most of the first quarter as both teams traded baskets. With the game tied at 7 with around 3:30 left in the quarter, the Pintos went on a 6-0 run to take a 13-7 lead. Blair Oaks responded with a run of its own as the team tied it at 13 near the end of the quarter, but California took a one-basket lead at 15-13 right before the end of the quarter.

In the second quarter with the game tied at 15, the Pintos went on a 5-0 run to make it 20-15, but Blair Oaks cut the lead down to three points at 20-17 with around 6:00 left in the first half. The Pintos made it 22-17 before extending the lead with a three-pointer by Lauren Friedrich, making it 25-17 with less than 5:00 to go in the half. With less than a minute to go, the Pintos pushed their lead up to 10 points after Rylee Hees made two free throws to make it 30-20. California led 31-22 at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, a three-pointer by Friedrich pushed the Pintos lead back up to double digits at 36-24 and with around 3:00 to go in the quarter, another three-point play, this time by Tristan Porter, made it a 41-26 game. Blair Oaks again cut into the lead a little bit, making it 43-30 at the end of the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Blair Oaks cut into the lead some more as two three-pointers early on made the score 43-36 with around 7:00 to go in the game. Another three pointer by Blair Oaks cut the lead to just four points at 45-41 with just more than 6:00 to go in the game. After scoring a basket with around 3:30 left in the game, Blair Oaks stole the ball from the Pintos and quickly scored to make it a one point game at 47-46.

Blair Oaks then took a one-point lead at 49-48 with 34 seconds left. California regained possession with less than 20 seconds left in regulation and now down two points at 50-48, but Friedrich was fouled with 14 seconds left. She proceeded to tie the game at 50 after making two free throws. Things got dramatic in the final seconds, as Blair Oaks missed a possible game-winning shot with just more than three seconds on the clock but got the ball right back after forcing a California turnover after the rebound. The second attempt at a game winner would also not go in for Blair Oaks as the game went into overtime.

In overtime, the Pintos took at 52-50 lead after a basket by Maura Pardoe, but Blair Oaks answered with a three-pointer to make it 53-52. Pardoe tied the game with a free throw at 53, but Blair Oaks again retook the lead at 56-53 with less than 2:00 to go. Blair Oaks then extended its lead to 58-53 with 44 seconds left; though the Pintos had a couple of chances to cut into the lead, the ball would not go in the net and Blair Oaks was able to hold on for the win.

Tristan Porter led the team with 12 points, followed by Friedrich with 11 points, KaLynn Irey with eight points, and Pardoe with seven points.

Pintos head coach Bobby Sangster said Blair Oaks was sharper than the Pintos during their comeback victory.

"They were more focused than us, they executed better than us and they did what it took to be a champion and what it took to win," Sangster said.

When it came to the tournament as a whole, Sangster said it had been a great week.

"We are just grateful for the opportunity to go play, and we are going to continue to put another step forward and hopefully continue to get better," Sangster said.

After a tough loss, Sangster said it is up to the players when it comes to what they take away from the loss.

"If they handle it the right way, there is a lot they can learn," Sangster said. "That is going to be on them, and I think that I have a great group of young ladies that I believe in wholeheartedly. I think we are going to see a different Lady Pintos (team) the next time we step on the floor."

The Pintos' next game is at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at home against Russellville.

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