VACAVILLE — A lackluster first quarter proved to be too much for the Rodriguez High boys basketball team Tuesday night and the Mustangs fell 79-67 to host Vacaville, and split the Monticello Empire League title.
The championship split went four ways with Armijo beating Vintage 66-45 and Wood beating Napa 73-61.
The Bulldogs (12-18, 7-3 MEL) dominated nearly every facet of the game early on and forced the Mustangs (13-13, 7-3) to make key mistakes all night.
“Tonight there was a lot of little fundamental things that we didn’t do,” Rodriguez coach Nate Rankin said. “I didn’t see my guys blocking out a lot on the boards missing shots. The defense wasn’t there tonight.”
Vacaville won the battle on the glass 39-32 and also made the most of its opportunities at the free throw line, sinking 26 of 44 foul shots.
Rodriguez was 12 for 23 from the line in a physical game that ended with 51 total fouls, four players fouling out and another three with four fouls each.
The Bulldogs opened up a 13-1 lead in the first 4 minutes, and it wasn’t until David Shelton’s pull-up jumper made it 15-3 with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first quarter that the Mustangs even sank a floor shot.
The Bulldogs led 22-10 at the end of 8 minutes and both teams were already shooting in the bonus with 16 fouls being handed out in the opening quarter.
With the loss, Rodriguez ended the regular season on a three-game skid, falling to Wood, Armijo and Vacaville to lose sole possession of first place.
A victory would have made the Mustangs outright champions.
As it is, the four co-champs will all find themselves playing again – some may play outbracket games on Friday, others may start Wednesday.
All will learn their fate today when the playoff brackets are released.
Rodriguez rallied in the second quarter, outscoring Vacaville 22-20, but the Bulldogs still led by 10 (42-32) at the break.
The Mustangs finally caught a break and opened the second half with a 10-2 run to close to within 44-43 on a Kyle Williams drive up the middle.
That was as good as it got, however, as Vacaville took advantage of a bevy of Rodriguez turnovers for a 12-4 run that ended the quarter with the Bulldogs leading 56-47.
Things continued to go Vacaville’s way in the fourth when Raul Magana hit an open layup for a 74-56 lead, the biggest his team held all night.
David Shelton led Rodriguez with a game-high 19 points, Kyle Williams added 16, Timothy Moore. Jr had 12 and Johnny Shelton scored 10.
Magana led the Bulldogs with 15.
“Vacaville had a good plan, they kept attacking,” Rankin said. “There was times where we got into the lane, probably (should) take a stop here and there and we didn’t do that. We didn’t control the boards.”
Rankin credited Vacaville for playing a solid game.
“Good team, they did good,” he said.
Still he was proud of his players for the season they’ve put together so far, especially given that none of last season’s starters returned for the 2012-13 season.
“We overcame quite a bit. . . . My hat goes off to my guys,” Rankin said. “But in games like this, the thing is, you’ve got to take care of both sides of the ball and I don’t think that we blocked out enough. I don’t think that we attacked. We didn’t really play our game like we normally we do, but that happens.”
Looking to the opening of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, Rankin said a lot needs to be fixed for the Mustangs to have a good postseason run.
“(We need to) fix the little things that we saw today that end up being big things,” he said.
In junior varsity action, the Mustangs (21-3, 9-1 MEL) topped the Bulldogs 51-48 and also split the MEL crown.
Rodriguez got 21 points from Leroy Wilson, 14 from Courtland McLean and seven points and seven boards from Elijah Lawson.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.