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Braves battle to Block LM championship
Eight high school basketball teams representing Divisions 4-6 braved the ominous forecasts and took part in the 40th annual Block LM Shootout held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Los Molinos High.
Division VI teams were Mercy High, American Christian Academy and Champion Christian, while Los Molinos, Williams, Hamilton and Esparto represented D5, Sutter was the lone entrant from D4.
Seeing the court for competition for the first time this season, the Braves knocked off all three of their opponents, including a 43-35 win over Los Molinos to take the tournament championship.
Hamilton spread the ball around well during the matchup, as five different players scored in the first quarter to give Hamilton a 16-9 win after one. The team scoring concept was carried through to the second quarter as five players contributed to the Braves' 11 points and 27-20 halftime lead.
The lead became tenuous in the third quarter, which began when the Bulldog's Jesus Castillo dropped a trey to open the period. Los Molinos also got buckets from Sam Smith, A.J. Long and Ramiro Castellon, while the Braves were stifled to just a deuce from Joseph Bass and a Shea Shull free throw.
The lead was just one entering the final period, 30-29 in favor of Hamilton.
Shull made a pair of free throws to open the fourth, but after a Los Molinos free throw, Castillo canned a baseline jumper to knot the score for the first time at 32-32 with 5:15 left to play.
Hamilton coach Brian Erickson, who had to wait for most of his team to finish up the football season, said of their tournament performance, "Our intensity has a long way to go, they didn't play as hard as they could have. We're still really rusty."
With the score deadlocked, it was a good time for Hamilton to turn up the heat.
Austin Burbank used a wicked head-fake to get his defender off his feet before taking it to the hole for two, and Leland Prior followed with an aggressive drive down the lane for a four-point lead. Theron Fumasi found himself all alone for an easy lay-in, and Shea sank another freebie to make it 39-32.
Tim Bekendam took a pass from Fumasi in the paint and put it through, and Fumasi sank a pair from the line to complete an 11-0 run.
Los Molinos' A.J. Long banked home a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was too little, too late, and the Braves scored the tourney win.
Prior's eight points led the Braves, with Bekendam notching seven and Shull and Fumasi, six apiece.
Castillo - the Bulldogs' lone senior - finished with a team-high nine points, Long added eight and Eric Haley, six.
"We're young with almost all juniors," remarked Los Molinos coach Christian Cumpston, "they played good defense and I'm proud of how they competed. We'll continue to get better, and will look different once league comes around."
In Saturday's other games, Sutter smacked Esparto 77-20 and Williams knocked off ACA 53-39.
Los Molinos 42, ACA 41
Esparto 47, Champion 27
Hamilton 58, Williams 38
Sutter 61, Mercy 25
Los Molinos 58, Esparto 38
Hamilton 38, Sutter 34
Williams 72, Mercy 57
ACA 63, Champion 21
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.