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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaThe Californa Pintos boys basketball team took a seventh-place finish Jan. 16 at the California boys basketball tournament after beating Warrensburg’s junior varsity team 56-40.

The California Pintos boys basketball team (3-10) finished in seventh place Jan. 16 at California’s home tournament after a 56-40 win over the Warrensburg Tigers junior varsity team.

The team lost its first-round game Jan. 12 against Fulton 68-41 and lost again Jan. 14 in a close game against St. Elizabeth in the second round 55-54.

In the seventh-place game, the Pintos found themselves down 11-3 with just more than 3:00 left in the first quarter. The team was able to cut into the lead a little bit but at the end of the quarter, the Pintos still trailed 13-7.

Things started to go better for the Pintos’ offense in the second quarter, as back-to-back baskets by Calen Kruger made it a 15-11 game with less than 6:00 to go before halftime. The Pintos cut the lead down to one point at 17-16 before a free throw by Garrett Burger tied the game at 17 with more than 2:00 on the clock. A three-pointer by Kruger gave California a 20-17 lead, its first lead of the game, with less than 2:00 to go in the quarter. California then made it a 24-17 game, but the Tigers brought it back to 24-20 with 25 seconds left. Two more free throws by Burger made it 26-20, but Warrensburg hit a three-pointer buzzer beater to make it a 26-23 game at halftime.

California slowly expanded its lead during the third quarter. The Pintos had made it a seven-point game at 37-30 with just less than 4:00 left in the quarter. A three-point play by Burger gave the Pintos a 10-point lead at 40-30 with around 3:02 left in the quarter. The Pintos had their largest lead at the time at 12 points after a basket by Kruger made it 42-30. At the end of the quarter, the Pintos still led by double digits at 42-32.

Head coach Brad Conway said it was important for the team to start the second half off on the right foot.

“It was really important,” Conway said. “At halftime, we talked about how we wanted to extend the positive things we were doing in the second quarter into the third quarter and try to extend our lead. The guys rose to the challenge, and they were able to do that.”

Warrensburg made a push early in the fourth quarter, cutting the Pintos’ lead down to five points after a 5-0 run to make it 42-37. Baskets by Trevor Myers and Karson McKinney gave California some breathing room, as they combined to make it 46-37 with less than 5:00 left in the game. The Pintos pushed their lead back up to 10 points at 50-40 with less than 3:30 left before the buzzer. California saw it through, ending the game on a 6-0 run to earn the victory.

The Pintos struggled with fouls at the start of the game as they committed eight in the first half, but in the second half, the team committed only three fouls. Conway said the team had talked about how they needed to be more disciplined while on defense.

“I thought we came out real flat in the first quarter, and in the second quarter, we started to pick it up,” Conway said. “I think that confidence spilled over a little bit into the second half. I thought our deflections and getting out on breaks got us energized, and we started to execute a little bit better in the second half.”

Conway said the team can take away the importance of being more consistent on offense and defense from this game and the tournament.

“Especially offensively, we did not have as many turnovers as we had the last few games and just taking care of the basketball,” Conway said. “I told them that when we get into our offense and we don’t try to get out of control, we get good looks and are starting to put the ball in the hole. When we start rushing things and start getting out of control, that is when it kind of domino effects on us and the turnovers lead to a lot of easy break outs for the other team. That is something I thought we did a little bit better today.”

Calen Kruger led the team with 19 points, followed by Burger with 13 points, Myers with 12 points and McKinney with seven points.

The Pintos’ next game is at 6 p.m. Jan. 21 against Fulton.

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