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Spartans can’t overcome slow, sloppy start

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Spartans can’t overcome slow, sloppy start

Lathrop’s Mikey Pereznegron has his layup attempt deflected away by Merced defender Travante Richard during a Modesto City Classic contest at Gregori High.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 1, 2012 12:45 a.m.

MODESTO — Lathrop High’s boys basketball team will play its sixth game in six days this afternoon when it closes out the Modesto City Classic.

The brutal stretch to start the season appeared to take its toll during a turnover-plagued opening half of Friday’s winners-bracket contest with Merced, which led by double digits for most of the game and coasted to a 53-39 win at Gregori High.

The Spartans (1-3) play the Golden Valley-Atwater loser today at 1:30 p.m. across town at Downey High.

“We’re a no-excuse team,” Lathrop coach Bill Slikker said. “Yeah, this is Game 5 in five days — they’re young. When the ball gets tipped off that adrenaline should kick in and we should be ready to go.”

Sharpshooter Travante Richard and the Bears took advantage as Lathrop experimented with different zone defenses in the opening half. The slender 6-foot-3 guard drilled three of his four 3-pointers in the first two quarters and scored 18 of his game-high 20 points during that stretch.

Richard’s 3 with 1:41 left in the first gave Merced a 16-4 cushion, and his next one pushed the lead to 25-6 with 4:56 remaining in the second. The Bears (2-1), well ahead 32-14 by halftime, ended up with eight 3-pointers coming from four different players.

Lathrop executed better on both ends of the floor in the second half, limiting turnovers but struggling to convert on point-blank layups. Nick Camper gave Merced its largest lead at 50-27 early in the fourth.

Sophomore Isaiah Ellis poured in 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Lathrop, while point guard Robert Orantes contributed 11.

“Their length and their speed did not bother us, and you can see that in the second half,” Slikker said. “We played straight man (defense) and did pretty well, so I think right now it’s just a matter of will.

“We’re not a good enough team to show up and not give 100 percent night in and night out. (Merced) showed up with energy, built up a big lead, and unfortunately we’re not a good enough team enough to come back from that.”

Lathrop will go into today’s tournament finale shorthanded. With two players already out with injuries, two more miss the game for testing, and a few Spartans were hobbled by minor aches following Friday’s contest.

They’ll have plenty of time to regroup next week with only one game — at home against Linden Tuesday — on slate.

“We started off last season slow too before we got into a rhythm,” Slikker said. “We’re pretty young in terms of on-court experience other than Robert. What I’m looking forward to doing next week is defining roles, and it gives us some time to heal up. We have a lot of new guys, and as a group they haven’t played together very much.”

Pitman 51, Manteca 47

Brandon Garcia buried four 3-pointers and scored 20 points to lead Pitman (2-1).

He keyed the Pride late, starting with a desperation 3-pointer that he was fouled on at the third-quarter buzzer. Garcia converted two of the three free throws to give them a 35-34 lead, and his 3 on Pitman’s first possession of the fourth gave it the cushion it needed.

Manteca (2-2) was 5 for 12 from the foul line in the fourth period, while Pitman made all seven of its attempts.

“We missed some shots and turned the ball over in bad situations in the fourth quarter,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “As a coach I want to say it was one we let get away, but Pitman did the right things to win it. They got the key stops, took advantage of our mistakes and made some shots.”

Austin Haro led the Buffaloes with 14 points, Michael Hatfield added 12 and Alex Jorgensen had 10. They take on Beyer or Enohs in the 11th-place game at Downey High today. Tipoff is scheduled for noon.

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