The West and Tracy boys basketball teams will meet again in the championship game of the Tracy/West Winter Holiday Classic.
West won it 65-64 on a last-second shot last year. This year both teams earned their place in the final after back-and-forth semifinal games that required some extra fourth-quarter intensity to advance to the final.
The crosstown match will be the last of four games at West High’s Steve Thornton Gymnasium on Saturday, including the third-place game featuring Kimball and East Union high schools of Manteca.
Tracy 68, Kimball 53
The Tracy High Bulldogs saw the Kimball Jaguars dig their way out of an early deficit, and Tracy then had to make a comeback in the second half to secure the Bulldogs’ 68-53 win and a place in Saturday’s championship game
Tracy (4-3) led 12-2 early in the first quarter but the Jaguars (5-4) tied it up 16-16 with senior Jhordin Mellion’s shot at the end of the first. Kimball pulled ahead 34-27 at the half, with senior Peter Van Katwyk leading the Jaguars with three 3-point shots in the second quarter..
Tracy coach Junior Cueva said the Bulldog players knew that they let the game begin to slip away in the second quarter.
“When we went back to the locker room those guys figured it out on their own,” Cueva said.
“We just told them what they needed to do. These guys have been able to play for the last couple of years. They’ve just got to click together. We’re pretty tough to beat when we get going.”
Tracy pulled ahead 42-41 near the end of the third quarter on senior Druce Asah’s 3-point shot, his third of the game. The Bulldogs were unstoppable after that and Tracy’s defense effectively limited Kimball’s scoring opportunities.
“We had to come up with a big win,” Tracy senior Kharyem Watson said. “The first quarter we played really well but we slowed down in the second quarter. Our coaches pumped us up at halftime and we got right back into it.”
Kimball coach Justin Gregory said the Jaguars need to sustain the effort that allowed them to catch up in the first quarter.
“At times we fight when our back’s against the wall, but honestly I think late in that third and fourth quarter we had guys that gave up,” he said. “We’ve just got to sustain a higher level of intensity on defense and not get down when things aren’t going our way.”
West 81, East Union 68
After a close first half the Wolf Pack had to contend with foul trouble while overcoming East Union’s third-quarter lead, to claim the 81-68 win Friday and advance to the championship game.
The Wolf Pack (6-4) and Lancers (3-5) traded the lead four times in the first half, with East Union holding a 35-34 lead at the half.
The Lancers were on target with their shooting coming into the third quarter, and went on a 20-5 scoring run before the Pack regained its composure. West made up the deficit, again cutting East Union’s lead to one point, for a 57-56 lead for the Lancers, by the end of the third.
West coach Derek Sprecksel said all of his starters were in danger of fouling out by the third quarter, when West was down by 16 points.
“To their credit they were able to play with the fouls but they were more aggressive, if that makes any sense,” Sprecksel said.
In the fourth quarter it was West with the accurate shooting and aggressive rebounding as the Pack outscored the Lancers 25-11 in the final frame.
“Once we had our backs against the wall our conditioning really kicked in,” senior guard Isaiah Grady said. “We ran our fast break, moved the ball and played a lot better in the second half.”
Grady scored 22 points, senior Elijah Tuando scored 22 points, including four 3-point shots, and sophomore Ephraim Estell added 16 points.
Tuando said that the intensity that brought West back in the second half will be need for all of Saturday’s game against Tracy.
“We for sure can’t come out slow,” he said. “We’re going to have to come out strong and make sure we finish out on our tournament.”
Also on Friday
Castlemont 60, Lathrop 55
Pacheco 59, Buhach Colony 41
Saturday’s games, all at West High
Seventh place: Lathrop vs. Pacheco, 3 p.m.
Consolation final: Castlemont vs. Buhach Colony, 4:30 p.m.
Third place: East Union vs. Kimball, 6 p.m.
Championship: West vs. Tracy, 7:30 p.m.