Led by a career night from Tommy Williams, the El Dorado Cougars held off a late charge from the visiting Vista del Lago Eagles for a 77-69 Sierra Valley Conference victory.
Williams, a junior, scored a career-high 30 points on 12 of 20 shooting while sophomore Matt Smith poured in 16 points for the Cougars.
“We played all night with a lot of energy, and (Williams) scored 18 points in the half to really jumpstart our offense,” El Dorado coach Ken Macklin said.
El Dorado jumped out to a fast start, and led 12-3 after Smith knocked down a three-pointer. Vista answered with a 3-point play, but Justin Morrison came back with one of his own. The Eagles clawed back but Williams muscled his way for two layups to extend the lead. Following a Vista del Lago free throw, Williams scored on a spinning layup through two defenders, and after an Aaron Line hoop, the Cougars led 25-18 at the end of the first quarter.
Sean Gregg put through a pair of bank shots to push the lead to 29-23 at the 5:07 mark in the second quarter, and a pair of Daniel Vance free throws followed by another Williams’ bucket pushed the lead to 33-23. Vista crept to within 33-30 before Williams got off an acrobatic shot to extend the lead. Mehran Amin’s trey closed the gap to two at the half.
“We allowed them to get back into the game with the three-pointer. We knew that this was their forte coming in, and we made adjustments at half to try to prevent the deep shot, but they’re a very good shooting team,” Macklin said. The Eagles made 10 of their 13 three-point attempts on the night.
Vista briefly took control in the second half but Williams wouldn’t let the game get out of hand. His layup tied the game up at 37 apiece, and his free throws tied it back up at 39-39. The Eagles went ahead with a 10-3 run but the Cougars answered with a seven-point run to tie the game and Morrison’s free throws near the end of the quarter gave El Dorado a slim 53-52 lead headed into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, both teams were in the bonus, and the Cougars took advantage with aggressive play. El Dorado held a double-digit lead that shrank to two but Williams muscled through two bigger defenders to make a tough basket, while being fouled. Williams made the free throw, and after Vista’s desperation three fell short, El Dorado owned the hard-fought win.