Two buzzer-beating shots at the end of the second and third quarters Thursday night generated momentum for the El Dorado High boys basketball team in its Sierra Valley Conference game against Liberty Ranch but the visiting Hawks outscored the Cougars 21-10 in the fourth quarter to pick up the 71-61 victory.
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The loss puts the Cougars’ (4-5, 8-15) Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff chances in serious jeopardy with three conference games left. If El Dorado fails to qualify, it will be the first time since Ken Macklin became the Cougar head coach that El Dorado will miss the postseason.
Daniel Vance (15 points) hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the second quarter, giving the Cougars a 33-32 halftime lead. Liberty Ranch took the lead for good early the third when Michael Meserole converted a 3-point play preceding a 9-0 Hawks’ run.
El Dorado rallied as Tommy Williams (10 points) made 2-of-2 free throws to end the scoring drought. The teams traded baskets throughout before deja´vu struck again at the buzzer to end the quarter when Cougars forward when Michael Weston canned a basket to cut Liberty Ranch’s lead to 51-50.
“It wasn’t enough,” Macklin said. “They played hard, they always do.”
The Cougars committed costly turnovers in the third and fourth quarters that led to points for the high-flying Hawks, who were led by Meserole with 38 points — 18 in the second half. In the second quarter, El Dorado held him to only nine points that included two treys toward the end of the quarter.
“Double team him, try to get the ball out of his hands, deny the ball,” Macklin said.
This game was far closer than the two teams’ first meeting last month in Galt, where the Hawks flew to a 63-46 victory.
“We seemed to have more control of the first game,” Liberty Ranch head coach Josh Williams said. “This game, we just seemed to just hang around. In the fourth quarter, we made our shots and got some big rebounds.”
Behind Vance and Williams, Matt Smith scored nine points, Sean Gregg, five, Justin Morrison, four, and Weston, two. Hawks’ forward DeAndre Stallings had 11 points.
The Cougars outrebounded the Hawks, 39-30. Smith had seven boards. Vance had two assists and two blocked shots.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.