STOCKTON — A furious fourth-quarter rally was undone by nine turnovers in the final eight minutes and the Rodriguez High boys basketball team saw its season come to an end in a 68-58 loss to host Bear Creek in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I outbracket playoff game Friday night.
Trailing 43-37 after three quarters and never having held the lead, the 17th-seeded Mustangs (12-15) exploded for an 11-2 run, tying it at 45-45 on a pair of free throws by Keanu Williams with 5 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.
Rishod Abraham followed that by drawing an intentional foul while going to the hoop. He sank the first shot to give Rodriguez the lead at 46-45 with 5:39 on the clock.
Thirty-seven seconds later, it was Abraham again going to the hoop for a layup and a 48-45 advantage.
For the next 2:04, the Mustangs clung to the lead as the Bruins chipped away.
During Rodriguez’s run, No. 16 Bear Creek managed just a pair of free throws, and didn’t get its first field goal of the quarter until the 6-foot, 6-inch Quinn Ryan pulled up for a 3-pointer to tie it a 52-52 with 2:58 to play.
From there it was all Bruins as the Mustangs fell victim to their own impatience in moving the ball as they threw it away repeatedly.
Bear Creek pulled away on the strength of 18-for-24 free throw shooting in the fourth – the Bruins managed just three field goals in the fourth.
Rodriguez stayed in it for a while on two treys by Derrick Harris, to get within 59-55 and 62-58, but with the Bruins shooting double bonus, it wasn’t enough.
“Our guys fought back, but for some reason in the last four games, we haven’t been running our defense and our offense., I’m not sure where it really was, but that’s where we lost the game,” said Mustangs coach Nate Rankin.
Early on, the Bruins dominated the boards and limited the Mustangs almost exclusively to first-chance shots. Bear Creek had the rebounding advantage 24-14 at halftime, and that reflected 30-19 score at the break.
“They kicked in the momentum, we let them have that momentum,” Rankin said. “They jumped out, got on top of us, we tried to fight back.”
In the second half, Rodriguez corrected the rebounding issues, pulling down 17 to Bear Creek’s 12 and fueling the rally in the fourth quarter.
Bear Creek opened the game playing solid defense, forcing two misses and two turnovers on Rodriguez’s first four possessions and opening a 8-0 lead in the first 3 minutes.
With 4:30 left in the opening quarter, the Mustangs’ Kyle Williams got his team on the board with a floating jumper.
Rodriguez narrowed the lead to 13-11 on a David Shelton 3-pointer, but Bear Creek finished the half on a 17-8 run.
Shelton finished with a gem-high 16 points with four treys. Harris added 15 for the Mustangs, while Abraham and Deshawn Hall added seven each.
The loss was the Mustangs’ fourth straight to finish the season. The first three of the skid cost Rodriguez an outright championship in the Monticello Empire League. Instead the Mustangs shared the crown with Armijo, Wood and Vacaville.
“Overall, I’m proud of the guys over the season, I got a bunch of guys that came together,” Rankin, a first-year coach, said. “My hat goes off to all 12 of my guys – they really did a good job, great job this season.”
Still the loss Friday stung especially after his team showed so much life in the fourth.
“We were trying to keep it going, but then again we turned it over too,” Rankin said. “We had a lot of turnovers, as soon as we got it, we kind if rushed it. Had we settled down, I think it would have been a different outcome.”
With the win, Bear Creek earned a visit to No. 1 Sheldon of Sacramento when the regular bracket gets under way.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.