After dominating Whitney in the first half of the Gold Dust Tournament’s opening game at El Dorado High Thursday night, the El Dorado Cougars let the Wildcats back into the game in the second half and with two minutes left, clung to a precious one-point lead.
David Cochran came down with a big rebound on a Whitney miss and passed to Joe Visman for a lay-up to give El Dorado a 61-58 lead with a little under a minute left.
The Wildcats went to the line for two free throws on a technical with three seconds left and as the Cougars and their fans held their collective breath, Whitney’s final shot bounced off the rim. Game: El Dorado, 61-60.
The win allows the Cougars to continue their defense of their 2009 Gold Dust title. They play Amador Valley tonight at 8:30 in the semifinal game. Amador Valley defeated Rosemont 70-27 in the late game.
El Dorado raced out to an eight-point lead in the first quarter and held a commanding 13-point lead, 41-28, at halftime but the tone of the game quickly changed in the second half as Whitney scored the first eight points, shaving the Cougars’ advantage down to five minutes into the third quarter.
The rest of the game turned into a battle at each end of the floor as El Dorado attempted to rebuild its lead while the Wildcats looked to continue to narrow the gap.
The game started out great for the Cougars as Dan Smith, who scored 21 points on the night, did most of his damage in the first half, pouring in 19 points over the first two quarters. With Cochran (seven rebounds) and Nick Jemmott (six) taking charge of the boards, El Dorado set the pace.
Visman put up 15 points and Jemmott chipped in nine, and with solid defense from Travis Riedell, Kenny Headd, Justin Morrison, Ian Truax and Sean Dunn the Cougars looked to be in complete control of the game until the Wildcats rallied in the second half.