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Pierce collars stubborn Bulldogs
The underdogs came to play in the first round Division V playoff basketball game between No. 5 Pierce High and No. 12 Los Molinos.
Pierce rallied back from a halftime deficit Wednesday to beat the Bulldogs 49-43 in Arbuckle, and earned a chance to play Friday at No. 4 Mt. Shasta, which beat No. 13 Durham.
A season in a league with three 20-win teams ensured that Los Molinos wasn't intimidated by the Sacramento Valley League co-champion Bears.
"We played the way I've been trying to get them to play all year. They've shown me flashes of this but this was the first time I've seen it for a whole game," Los Molinos coach Christian Cumpston said.
The Bulldogs (9-17, 4-8 Five Star) led the majority of the first three quarters before Pierce (17-5, 10-2 SVL) rallied behind the hot hand of senior guard Hayden Kalfsbeek, who made five 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Bulldogs weathered an early barrage and scored the final eight points of the first quarter for a 10-8 lead, and pushed the score to 21-17 at the half.
A.J. Long hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the first half, slicing apart the Bears' defense with agile drives to the hoop.
A bucket by Jesse Dodero early in the third quarter pushed the lead to six before Pierce senior forward Andy Corona took over in the paint and scored six consecutive points.
"Keeping our composure was key to helping us come back into the game,'" Corona said.
Sam Smith scored consecutive buckets, the second on a fast break after he poked the ball away from a Pierce player.
Leading by four points with about two minutes remaining in the quarter, the Bulldogs kept Pierce's offense contained with a stingy zone defense. The Bears played much of the game without their best zone-penetrating weapon, senior forward Oscar Dorantes, who spent time on the bench in foul trouble.
Finally, Kalfsbeek, the Bears' 5-foot-6 zone-busting 3-point bomber caught fire. After going 0 for 5 in the first half, he hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the teams entered the final quarter knotted at 31-31.
"That's a big momentum swing when he comes out hitting threes like that. Especially he's feeling it when he reacts pumping his fist," Corona said.
Kalfsbeek kept shooting, hitting two more 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter but Los Molinos responded with baskets by Jordan Gumm and senior guard Jesus Castillo, tying the game at 37-37 with a little more than four minutes remaining.
Joey Hernandez grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer and scored on the put-back, Dorantes hit a floater in the lane and Kalfsbeek hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game, putting Pierce up 44-37, their biggest lead of the contest.
Eric Haley and Long scored consecutive buckets, pulling the Bulldogs back within two points with about a minute remaining.
A collision between Dorantes and Long with 45 seconds left earned Long a foul and Dorantes a technical, sending him to the bench with his fifth foul, but Long missed both free throws.
After a turnover, the Bears ran the clock down to six seconds before Corona was fouled. Haley was called for a technical and Corona hit all four free throws, putting the game out of reach, 49-43.
Los Molinos went 2 for 10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter while Pierce shot 5 for 8 down the stretch.
"I think it's worse, being that close and then… it's worse. At least if you leave with a blow-out, you're like, 'well that was supposed to happen,'" Cumpston said.
A roster with nine juniors and just one senior, Castillo, leaves Los Molinos in good shape for next season.
"It was a good learning experience, this is all for next year. They played really hard, they played good, I'm really proud of them right now," Cumpston said.
A sinus virus decimated the Bears roster for the week leading up to the game, and kept most of the players off the court for several days at some point during the last week. Three starters felt the brunt of the illness on Wednesday and a fourth, Corona, was just getting over it.
Corona led all scorers with 18 points and Kalfsbeek finished with 16. Long led Los Molinos with 17 points and Dodero added nine.
Pierce went on the road in the second round Friday and played at Mt. Shasta (20-6, 9-3 Shasta Cascade).
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.