TRACY — Ryan Tarr had seen enough.
His East Union boys basketball team was committing unforced turnovers and remained stagnant on offense in its 26th Annual Tracy Winter Holiday Classic opener against Castlemont of Oakland at West High’s Steve Thornton Gym on Thursday.
“Get your heads in the game!” he hollered for all to hear during a timeout.
After the short break … another turnover.
“We weren’t playing so well in the first half,” East Union forward Chris Molina said. “We were playing scared.”
The sophomore took it upon himself to spark his team. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the third quarter, and the Lancers rolled to their third straight victory, 69-43. The final result is surprising considering the start; East Union trailed 12-7 after the first quarter and had 13 turnovers by halftime.
“Coach really got on us in the locker room,” Molina said. “In the second half I wanted to help set the tempo and I knew that if I could do that the team was going to follow. It was an all-around team effort. Everybody did great.”
Fellow sophomore Gyse Hulsebosch led all scorers with 21 points. Arvind Singh hit three 3s for his nine points, while Cody Keener contributed nine points and 11 rebounds one night after pouring in 16 and 15 in a 67-63 nonleague triumph over Ripon.
Terrell Joseph paced Castlemont with 20 points, while Demarcus Cotton chipped in six points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“We need a balanced attack. We need to play as a team,” Tarr said. “It’s good to have guys stepping up and it’s been different guys on different nights.
“Cody’s been very consistent with his energy and rebounding, Austin (Miller, who had six points and eight rebounds) and Arvind shoot the ball well at times, Chris is becoming more consistent with getting to the basket and Gyse is getting his when he can. The biggest thing right now is playing as a team and getting better as a team.”
The young Lancers (4-4), who have three sophomores playing significant minutes, showed growth in just this one game. In the first half, Castlemont (3-6) harassed East Union with its pesky trap defense and led by as much as seven, 18-11.
East Union responded with an 11-0 run capped by three made free throws from Hulsebosch, who had four shots at it from the stripe thanks to a technical foul from Castlemont’s Jamal Abdullah. The Knights were able to snap out of their 3-minute long scoring drought with a buzzer-beating put-back layup from Toderick Gellington (eight points).
Molina kept East Union rolling with his aggression in the third quarter. He was 7 for 9 on free throws in the period, and he even drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing. Two more free throws from Miller stretched what was a two-point halftime advantage to 21, 47-26, with 50.7 seconds left in the quarter.
“I didn’t realize who was doing the scoring, I was more focused on us responding to the pressure and taking care of the ball,” Tarr said.
Reserves Daniel Ramos and Matt Bacuyani netted the best shots of the night in the fourth quarter. With the shot clock winding down, Ramos buried an impressive, over-the-backboard jumper from the baseline with his momentum carrying him out of bounds. Later, Bacuyani had his teammates buzzing with a pretty reverse layup.
East Union takes on tourney co-host West tonight at 7 in the semifinals. The Wolf Pack has claimed the last four titles, while the Lancers are looking for their second Tracy Winter Holiday Classic championship after winning it in 1990 under Coach Bill Stricker.