SHINGLE SPRINGS — It was an intra-county showdown Tuesday night at Ponderosa High as the Bruins hosted El Dorado for their annual varsity boys preseason matchup.
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After trading big scoring runs in the first half, both squads were neck-and-neck down the stretch with the hosts coming away with a 63-60 victory.
Ponderosa worked its way to a seven-point lead ending the first quarter, but surges from Cougars Matt Smith and Aaron Line in the second put El Dorado up 36-32 at halftime.
“I think free-throws decided the game tonight,” Cougar head coach Conrad Dizon said. “The second half was based on free throws and I think that’s where they (Ponderosa) won it tonight. Our guys will have to learn to overcome these challenges but we understand that we’re playing bigger teams. It’s not an easy schedule for the guys — but we’re hoping to be ready for league.”
Ponderosa limited its fouls in the second half, tallying five to avoid any bonus situation, while El Dorado put the Bruins into bonus early in the fourth quarter.
“We saw that we were in the bonus early that quarter,” Bruin guard Marcus Forbes said. “So we said ‘let’s go out there and try to be aggressive — get to the line’ which I think we were able to accomplish.”
Despite a lack of free throw opportunities in the second half, Dizon and Co. kept it close as time dwindled. After Smith hit a clutch three to pull within one at 61-60, El Dorado intentionally put Forbes and teammate Chris Snyder on the line. Forbes couldn’t connect but Snyder was nails, drilling both to put the Bruins up by three. Ian Spencer’s last-second shot attempt for El Dorado at the buzzer fell short as time expired.
Cougar Michael Weston analyzed the loss with a constructive lens, citing both good and bad.
“We communicated well on defense, calling out screens, and it seems like we shot pretty well from behind the arc,” Weston said. “I think we’ll need to limit our turnovers … had a lot of travel calls, things like that.”
It’s early yet for both teams with preseason tournaments on the horizon.
“It’s early,” Ponderosa head coach Troy Selvey said. “I’m proud of the early work we’ve put in and the kids are playing hard. When you play hard you give yourself a chance to win games. The way we’re looking at it — we don’t have to be playing great basketball — but if you have an eye on where you want to go and are willing to put in the work, that’s a great place to build on.”
Forbes led Ponderosa with 21 points, Snyder had 13, Jordan Brennan, 10, and Josh Bist, seven. For the Cougars, Line scored 22 followed by Tommy Williams with 15, Smith with 12 and Weston, eight.
Both teams are currently hosting early stages of the Gold Dust Tournament. Tomorrow’s action, including the finals, will be at El Dorado.