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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaCalen Kruger drives with the ball during the Pintos’ overtime win over Clopton on Dec. 28.

MOBERLY — It took an extra four minutes thanks to overtime, but the California Pintos boys basketball team came away with an 88-84 win over the Clopton Hawks on Dec. 28 at the Moberly Holiday Shootout. The win improved the team’s record to 3-4 on the year.

Head coach Ron Lebel said this was the first really close game for the team this year.

“We are happy to come out here with a win. We are just trying to find ways to win, ways to compete, ways to make the game a little bit more exciting for the guys,” Lebel said. “We are doing fine. I think we are 3-4 now — and we have Knob Noster next Friday — and hopefully, we can go and get another win there and put a couple of games together and keep growing as a basketball team.”

It was a low scoring first quarter as both teams struggled to get their offense going. The Pintos led 11-8 at the end of the quarter.

In the second quarter, California trailed Clopton 11-12 with around six minutes left, but a three-pointer from Braeden Birdsong gave the Pintos a 14-12 lead. Later, with the Pintos up 16-12, a three-point play by Calen Kruger extended their lead to 19-12, and a basket by Kruger made it a 21-16 game with around two minutes to go before halftime. Near the end of the second quarter, the Pintos led 26-19 when Trevor Myers stole the ball and then dunked it to make it a 28-19 game with less than a minute to go in the half. The Pintos entered halftime up 28-21.

In the third quarter, Clopton had more success on offense as the team outscored California 19-11 in the early stages of the quarter to take a 40-39 lead with around four minutes left. The Pintos fought back to tie the game at 45-45 with less than a minute to go in the quarter after a basket by Jordan Bondurant. Near the end of the quarter, California trailed 50-47, but a steal and quick basket by Birdsong made it a 50-49 game right before the fourth.

During the fourth quarter, California tied the game at 52-52 after a three-pointer by Bondurant off an in bounds pass with just around six minutes to go. Another basket by Bondurant gave the team a 54-42 lead with under six minutes to go. With under five minutes left, California led 59-55, but Clopton fought back to tie the game at 61-61 with less than four minutes left. A three-point play by Trevor Myers gave California a 64-61 lead, but the Hawks tied it up at 64-64 with less than three minutes to go.

With just around a minute to go, California led 71-68 but a three-pointer by Clopton tied the game at 71-71 with around 30 seconds to go. California held the ball for the last possession of regulation, but they could not get their last look to score. The game headed to overtime.

In overtime, California led 75-73 with just around three minutes left after a basket by Bondurant. Clopton then made it a one point game, but a three-pointer by Birdsong extended the lead to 78-74 with 2:38 left. Another three-pointer by Birdsong made it 81-76 with around two minutes to go. Clopton kept it close as with 1:04 to go, California was up 84-82. The Hawks forced a turnover but could not tie the game. With less than 10 seconds left, California forced a Clopton turnover and then made two more free throws to put the game away.

The Pintos shot 20-34 from the free throw line in the game. Lebel said the team will keep working as usual in practice to improve the accuracy of its free throws.

“We shoot free throws every day; we have a couple of free throw competitions we put them in. They run for missed free throws in practice. We treat free throws the same way I have treated free throws for 23 years and really haven’t had a problem making free throws,” Lebel said. “Some of those free throws were down the stretch — was it the pressure getting to us or not, who knows. We are going to continue doing what we do. We shoot them about half way through practice where hopefully our legs are a little worn out, game-like situation. We put them in good situations, free throw competitions you know, to simulate game-like pressure where you are trying to win a game. I think we just continue to do what we do and hopefully somewhere down the line we shoot the ball better.”

Jordan Bondurant led the team with 20 points, followed by Trevor Myers with 18 points, Braeden Birdsong with 16 points and Calen Kruger with 14 points.

The team’s next game is Jan. 3 on the road at 4: 30 p.m. at Knob Noster.

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