ASHLAND — The California Pintos boys basketball team (8-16) saw its season come to an end Feb. 27 after a 60-36 loss to the Southern Boone Eagles in the first round of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament.
Head coach Brad Conway said he felt the players who will be back for next year’s Pintos team have established a foundation now they have finished their first season under the new system.
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Conway said. “But at least the guys who are returning, they kind of know the expectations, they know what the practices are going to be like, and what is going to be expected on game day and game nights. They are going to have a better understanding of what we are trying to do offensively and defensively. It is just a process.”
Conway praised the way the team’s seniors — Tagen Higgins, Will Pickering, Bryant Davis and Garrett Burger — acted during the season.
“It was kind of tough for them to try to learn a new system,” Conway said. “They had good attitudes and practiced hard. I wish the best of luck to them. I thought they set good examples, especially in practice with their practice mentality. Each one of them provided something different throughout the games that we played. We are going to miss them.”
The Pintos did not get off to the best start in their clash against the Eagles as after the first quarter, California trailed 24-9. The Eagles extended their lead early in the second quarter, going on an 8-0 run to make it a 32-9 game with less than 5:30 before halftime. Two free throws by Calen Kruger made it 32-11 and with around 3:00 left in the first half, California trailed 39-15. The Pintos still trailed by 24 points at halftime at 43-19.
In the third quarter, the Pintos found themselves down 30 points at 51-21 with around 5:00 left in the quarter. A basket by Trevor Myers made it 51-23 with 1:10 left in the quarter, but by the start of the final period, the team trailed 53-24.
In the fourth quarter, the Pintos worked to get a little closer as the team went on an 8-0 run of its own to make it 53-32 with around 5:30 left in the game. There wasn’t enough time for the Pintos, though, as Southern Boone was able to keep the game out of reach in the game’s final minutes.
Conway said Southern Boone had an answer for the Pintos defense when California tried man and zone defenses throughout the game.
“They have really good shooters, and they have kids that can take you off the dribble,” Conway said. “They are well-coached and senior-dominated and those kids have kind of been there, done that, and it was kind of evident today.”
Myers led the Pintos with 18 points, followed by Kruger with eight points and Bryant Davis with four points.
The Pintos’ defense made things a little tougher for the Eagles in the second half, despite the final score. Southern Boone made eight three-pointers in the first half, but only two in the second half.
Conway said he thought the Pintos played better overall in the second half than in the first.
“(Southern Boone) came out more aggressive, more physical, and we had too many turnovers that led to quick scores. It was a domino affect on us; we have had some games where we have turnovers and that kind of dug us a hole” Conway said. “I told (the players) at halftime that we have to come out and be more competitive and I thought we were able to do that. We played harder, and I thought, at times, in the second half, we were able to execute stuff offensively. It was just that we dug ourselves such a big hole that it was hard to get back into it.”
California did not make a three-pointer in the game but shot 10-16 from the free throw line.
The Pintos had a tough day on offense, as there were times where they were able to get good looks at the basket yet the ball would not go down for them. Conway said he felt like the team executed but just did not get the shots to go in — he told the team to keep shooting.
“We have to keep taking those shots. A lot of those shots we missed today, we had been hitting over the last two or three weeks,” Conway said. “They just did not fall today, and even at the free throw line we missed some free throws that we usually hit. But I told them keep executing and take the shots and if you miss it, you miss it.”