By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
It was just a step, but a big one.
Rancho Alamitos, the defending boys’ Garden Grove League basketball champions, survived two heart-stopping games last week. Eric Yost, the Vaquero coach, is forseeing more of the same.
“This is one of those years when any team in the league can knock off any other team,” he said after Rancho’s 63-31 overtime win over Bolsa Grande Friday night in the noisy Matador gym. “It’s gonna be a grind every night.”
But the Rancho gears aren’t grinding quite yet. The green-and-gold knocked off league favorite Los Amigos 42-40 on Jan. 9, and then held off Bolsa Friday to start off league play at 2-0. Santiago is also 2-0.
“A lot of people thought we would be one of the weaker teams in the league because of our pre-season record, but we played a tough schedule to get ready for league,” added Yost.
It was Gary Lemus’ spinning turn-around jumper with five seconds left in overtime that lifted Rancho (5-9 overall) to the win Friday night, as the Vaqueros survived a dozen deficits to defeat the scrappy Matadors (4-10, 0-2).
The smaller but spirited Bolsa team attacked relentlessly, driving to the basket and hoping for a layup or shooting foul. The Mats led 18-13 after the first quarter, but in the second period, the Vaqs sewed up their zone defense and took a 30-23 lead into halftime.
But Bolsa’s first quarter strategy began to pay off again after the intermission, and the Mats’ ability to hit free throws assisted them in closing the gap and tying it up at 48-48 with two minutes left in the fourth.
The Matadors even held a 52-50 edge with nine seconds to play, but Nick Davis hit from the left side of the key with two seconds on the clock to send the game into overtime.
Bolsa built a 58-55 lead on free throws, then Peter Doan came close to burying the Vaqs when he made two more at the 1:57 mark to give the Mats a 61-58 edge, to the delight of hundreds of screaming home fans.
Rancho had one last rally, and that would be enough. Dean Wisdom’s basket brought the visitors to within one. Dylan Mullaney’s free throw tied it at 61 and that set up Lemus’ game-winner.
Wisdom led all scorers with 16 for Rancho. Daniel Bui had 11 to pace the Matadors.
Rancho was next in action Wednesday visiting La Quinta (results too late for our deadline). Bolsa was seeking its first league win against Los Amigos in the Lobo gym.
Friday’s schedule calls for Rancho to host Garden Grove (9-6, 1-1) while Bolsa will host La Quinta (5-12, 0-2).