In an intra-county and Sierra Valley Conference boys basketball game, El Dorado hosted Union Mine in an anticipated showdown.
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Trailing by nine at half, El Dorado rallied in the final two quarters to edge the charging Diamondbacks 50-47 in the Cougars’ gym.
Union Mine (0-3, 9-9) maintained its nine-point lead through the first few minutes of the third quarter. But a 3-point play by El Dorado (2-2, 6-12) guard Sean Gregg helped spark a rally that saw the Cougars climb back into the fray.
A free throw by Daniel Vance, double-pump lay-in by Gregg and back-to-back baskets by guard Tommy Williams brought the Cougars within two points with less than a minute.
Union Mine stretched the lead back out to five before the fourth quarter began. Fleury made one-of-two from the line after being hacked on a breakaway and Saich connected with Russell for two on a brilliant Hail Mary pass that covered three-fourths of the court.
“Every time we play it’s a game like tonight,” Macklin said. “If you’re going to go play a team like Union Mine, you better be ready. They play hard and they don’t stop. That team doesn’t know how to quit.”
El Dorado outscored Union Mine 17-9 in the final quarter for the win. Matt Smith, who finished with a team second-highest nine points behind Williams’ 12, started things off with a quick bucket.
That was answered by four Union Mine points, compliments of McIntyre and Fleury.
Then Williams fired it up again with another offensive rebound and put back. Once Williams drained a deep three-point jumper to bring the game within two, Macklin called timeout.
Fleury was fouled on the next play, and chipped in one of his two free throws before McIntyre blitzes into the lane on Union Mine’s next possession for a lay-up. 45-40, Union Mine.
With Union Mine inbounding and up by five, El Dorado’s Smith bolted for a deep pass intended for McIntyre that was thrown a bit too deep and wide left. Before slamming into his own bench, Smith saved the ball by slinging a one-handed pass to Aaron Lyne who was slammed going up for the lay-in. Lyne’s free throw didn’t erase Union Mine’s lead, but Smith’s three-pointer 35 seconds later did, putting the hosts up 46-45.
Both squads continued to battle for control. Josh Richards had two points on the night — both of which came from a successful one-and-one conversion that put Union Mine back up by one, and with 46.6 seconds remaining, Macklin called timeout.
Trailing 47-46, El Dorado forward Justin Morrison hit the biggest three-pointer of the night that placed El Dorado in the driver’s seat.
Morrison was fouled with 14 seconds remaining and hit one out of his two charity strike offerings. Saich worked to create some space and get a good look for Union Mine’s final chance, but the shot wouldn’t fall. Gregg snagged the final rebound of the night and sent Union Mine packing.
“We started out slow in the first half,” Smith said. “We had a tough second quarter, but we made good adjustments in the second half and Justin (Morrison) came up huge hitting that three to give us the lead there at the end.”
“We did some good things, did some bad things,” Gregg said. “I feel we were a lot more effective with our play in the second half. Hopefully this will give us something to build on.”
Union Mine’s defensive efforts in the first half, coupled with Alex Vaughn’s 11-point first half performance, gave El Dorado (2-2, 6-12) an uphill climb heading into the locker room. While El Dorado nudged a one-point advantage after the quarter, leading 12-11, Vaughn and the Diamondbacks put up 15 in the second quarter and proved stingy on defense, restraining the Cougars to five points.
The D’backs’ Alec Vaughn finished with a game-high 14 points, nailing all four of his free-throws and drilling two, three-point shots to keep Union Mine on the cusp of breaking away with a big lead. Teammate Scott McIntyre finished with 12 points and Sam Fluery had eight and Daniel Saich had six. Austin Russell finished with five points for the D’Backs, including an icing-on-the-cake three-pointer during Union Mine’s second quarter domination.
Macklin acknowledged Vaughn’s prowess in the first half as a major issue to address during the Cougars’ second half adjustments.
“That first half,” Macklin said, “with Alex Vaughn — he’s a guy who can just absolutely score. He’s tough to guard and when he’s got the ball in his hands he can be very dangerous, so a big part of our adjustment was to deny him the ball.”