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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaThe California Pintos boys basketball team won its first game of the season Dec. 22 in a 59-24 victory over New Bloomfield.

NEW BLOOMFIELD— The California Pintos boys basketball team (1-7) earned its first win of the year — and in emphatic fashion — in a 59-24 triumph over the New Bloomfield Wildcats on Dec. 22 ahead of California’s Christmas break.

Head coach Brad Conway said getting that first win is a confidence builder for the team.

“The guys have been playing hard; we had 30 practices together and we are starting to see some really positive things on both ends of the court,” Conway said. “It is nice to get this win, especially going into Christmas break, and now we’ve got seven practices before our next game to kind of clean up some things. I thought we did a lot of good things on both ends tonight.”

Conway said one of those areas to work on for further improvement is avoiding unforced turnovers; the team conceded 15 turnovers in this game.

On offense, Conway said the team finished around the basket better than it had been and also did better at rebounding and running.

“One of the things we have been stressing was defend and rebound and then get out and run, and I thought that we were able to do that a few times,” Conway said. “Overall, I was really pleased with how the kids played. I thought their energy was a lot better than it was the other night and just our attention to details on both ends are getting better.”

In the first quarter, the Pintos jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with just more than 5:00 to go in the quarter. New Bloomfield tied the game at 7-7, but a free throw by Garrett Burger gave California an 8-7 lead. California then went on a 4-0 run to make it a 12-7 game with 2:25 left in the quarter. New Bloomfield was able to tie the game up at 12 with 10 seconds on the clock. At the end of the quarter, the game stayed tied at 12.

California trailed once in the game, at 14-12 early in the second quarter, but baskets by Burger and Tagen Higgins gave California a renewed 16-14 lead with around 7:00 left to go before halftime. California followed that up with an 11-2 run throughout the rest of the quarter, taking a 27-16 lead into the halftime break.

California outscored New Bloomfield 15-4 in the second quarter and would not give up another lead for the rest of the matchup.

Baskets by Kruger and Trevor Myers helped boost the Pintos’ lead exiting the break, as they went on an 8-0 run to make it 35-16 early in the third quarter. With less than 2:00 left to play in the quarter, the Pintos led 41-20. By the end of the quarter, the score was 44-22.

The game was firmly in hand during the fourth quarter, as the Pintos led 57-24 with less than 5:00 to go in the game. California gave up only two points in the final quarter as the Pintos closed out their elusive first win of the season.

With it being the first time the team has played with a big lead so far this year, Conway said the team talked about not letting up during the halftime break.

“We were only up 11, but I really believed we could have been up a little bit more,” Conway said. “We talked about extending our lead and keeping the foot on the pedal and not having any let downs. Especially on the defensive end, no let downs and letting New Bloomfield crawl back into the game. In the third quarter, I felt that we kept our foot on the pedal and kept attacking the basket and we finished better around the basket, and that was very important.”

Trevor Myers led the team with 23 points, followed by Calen Kruger with 17 points and Garrett Burger with 11 points. The team went 7-16 from the free throw line and made four three-pointers in the win.

The Pintos’ next game is at 3 p.m. Jan. 2 at Linn.

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