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Bears, Panthers show off love of the game
The final day of the East Nicolaus Love of the Game Tournament featured two extremely close games between the Maxwell High and Pierce basketball programs on Saturday.
The Bears rallied for a 32-31 victory and survived a scare in the final second to beat the Panthers for their first win of the varsity girls tournament. Both teams finished the tourney with 1-2.
In the varsity boys game, Maxwell held on to beat Pierce 40-36 in an intense, physical showdown. Both teams finished the tournament with 2-1 records.
Pierce 32, Maxwell 31
Natalie Corona gave Pierce the lead with a short jumper with less than four minutes remaining in the game and neither team scored the rest of the way.
Maxwell still had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Jessie Otterson's mid-range jumper made a lap around the rim but refused to fall through as the final second ticked off the clock.
After a back-and-forth first quarter, Maxwell took control but never pulled more than seven points ahead. The Bears (5-6) mounted their comeback at the end of the third quarter, cutting the lead to three.
Senior guard Kendra Kent sparked the comeback with six points in the third quarter and led Pierce with 11 points. Her defense and rebounding helped turn the tide in the Bears' favor.
Kent joined the team in early December, after the tournament in Biggs, and her presence made an immediate impact, coach Alex Nunez said.
"I've always known (Kent) to be a really good athlete, and I knew that she would contribute to the team, so we talked her into coming out and it's obvious that she's helping us quite a bit."
Pierce, which played without senior captain Ellen Hansen who injured her knee two weeks ago, took a step in the right direction with the victory said Macey Cox, the Bears' other senior captain.
"It was really big, especially for our confidence and motivation. A lot of our players are injured, and yesterday we had a girl who wasn't feeling well, so it's been hard and all our games have been close, which makes it harder," Cox said.
Cox finished with five points and Marina Ambriz added seven.
Maxwell broke the Bears' press for the first three quarters but struggled in the fourth, coach Leo LaGrande said.
"I don't think we were executing. We weren't executing our press break and we weren't executing our plays, so that catches up with you and that's what happened."
Jenna Powell led Maxwell with 10 points, Ashley Azevedo had nine and Kailey McKinley added six.
Maxwell (6-3) played Sutter on Tuesday and hosts Quincy in the Mid-Valley League opener on Thursday.
Pierce (5-6) played Biggs on Tuesday and travels to Live Oak for a Sacramento Valley League match on Thursday.
East Nicolaus 33, Pierce 28
The host Spartans survived a 17-point outburst by Cox and pulled away in the second half for a 33-28 victory on Friday.
Cox scored 11 of the Bears' 16 points in the second half, but the only other Pierce player to score more than two points in the game was Corona, who sank two 3-pointers and finished with seven points.
East Nicolaus (6-6) shot 6-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to pull off their only victory of the tournament.
Biggs 38, Maxwell 33
The Wolverines outscored Maxwell 13-4 in the fourth quarter to pull off an upset victory on Friday on the second day of the tournament.
Darci Roles hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored a game-high 17 points for tournament champion Biggs (6-7).
Azevedo led Maxwell with nine points, Powell added eight, Haywood had six and Boyes scored five.
Biggs 41, Pierce 25
Maxwell 46, East Nicolaus 28
Maxwell 40, Pierce 36
Foul trouble forced Maxwell center Zach Troughton to the bench after a dominant 10-point first quarter but George Barajas - and the Panthers' deep roster - held off a tenacious Pierce team.
Maxwell took the lead early in the first quarter and Blake Vierra pushed the score to 18-5 with about six minutes left in the first half, forcing the Bears to use a timeout and regroup.
Pierce scored the final six points of the half and closed the gap to 27-23 near the end of the third quarter, but Maxwell pushed the lead to 10 with a 6-0 run of their own early in the fourth period.
The Bears closed the gap to three points three times in the final four minutes but couldn't finish off the comeback.
"We just played (poorly)," Pierce coach Noah Gomez said.
Maxwell frustrated the Bears by pushing the pace of the game in transition but had trouble capitalizing against a fast and physical Pierce defense.
The Panthers fought to hang on in the second half when their outside shooting went cold; they made just one 3-point shot all game, and missed several lay-ups on fast-breaks.
"We just had to take advantage of when they missed, get back and run the play, or at least try to run a play because they have a really good defense," Barajas said.
Troughton returned in the fourth quarter and made his presence felt through his rebounding and finished with 12 points, tied with Barajas and Pierce's Oscar Dorantes for the game high.
Vierra added seven points for Maxwell and Isaias Martinez scored five.
Andy Corona scored 11 points for Pierce, and Joel Hernandez and Hayden Kalfsbeek added five apiece.
Pierce (9-4) hosts Biggs today with the junior varsity game starting at 5:30 and the varsity game after.
Maxwell (7-5) takes the court again on Friday in Quincy for the Mid-Valley League opener.
Pierce 63, East Nicolaus 55
The only quarter Pierce outscored the host Spartans was the third, and it was enough to give the Bears a victory on Friday.
Pierce went 3-for-4 from 3-point range, including two treys by Joey Hernandez, and Corona scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter as the Bears outscored East Nicolaus 23-9.
Hernandez finished with 11 points and Dorantes added 11 points for the Bears.
Drew Orr led the Spartans (3-8) with 15 points, Adam Driver scored 12 and Francisco Silva added 11.
Biggs 48, Maxwell 45
A disastrous third quarter gave Biggs too much of a lead and Maxwell's desperate rally in the fourth quarter fell three points short on Friday.
The teams finished the first quarter tied and entered halftime tied, but the Wolverines outscored the Panthers 16-4 in the third quarter and held on for the win.
Nathan Callaway scored a game-high 22 points for Biggs (8-6) and Andrew Perez added 10 points.
Troughton scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers tried to pull off the comeback, but no other Maxwell player reached double figures. Bryce Perry scored eight points and Barajas added seven.
Pierce 47, Biggs 40
Maxwell 65, East Nicolaus 37
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com.