Not many teams get to end their season with a win, especially on Sophomore Night.
Though the Porterville College men's basketball team was not eligible for postseason play, it still ended its season with a 91-79 win over Merced (2-23; 0-12) in Porterville on Saturday to finish with a 6-6 record in Central Valley Conference play and 10-16 overall.
The last time these two teams met up was on Jan. 27; Porterville won 89-57.
After losing to College of the Sequoias last week by one point, the Pirates' chances of making the postseason were extinguished. Saturday's game was a chance for the sophomores to end the campaign on a high note, but the emotion of the night meant Porterville underestimated Merced a little bit, according to head coach Rob Haynes and freshman Kilon Bradford.
"I knew it was going to be a tough game because when we played them last time we beat them by 32," Haynes said. "So the guys looked at it as an easier game. We were at home too."
"I felt like this time we were a little too loose," Bradford said. "Maybe overlooked them a bit."
This also signified the end of a season that split into two halves. Three players were excused permanently from the squad in January, and Dale Kirkland tore his ACL early in the season. Because of this turmoil, Porterville was forced to finish the final two months of the season with eight healthy bodies, sometimes just seven.
Against Merced on Saturday, Porterville got contributions from all eight players, including the three off the bench, Bailey Baskovich, Bradford and Ramell Robinson. Baskovich hit two three-pointers and took a pair of charges in the second half. Robinson provided excellent backup point guard play and scored 11 points. Bradford hit three three-pointers in the first half and blocked a shot. He led the team with 21 points.
The Pirates led the game for the whole first half, going into halftime with a 33-28 lead. Merced was getting plenty of open three-pointers with Porterville's 3-2 zone, but was not hitting them. Merced finished 11-36 from three-point land, with Jose Gonzalez hitting five of his 11 shots from there to finish with 20 points. Porterville hit nine of its 21 shots from long range, and Tyler Roberts was the only starter to nail a three. He finished with nine points.
Merced took a 49-45 lead early in the second half, but baskets by Bradford, Robinson and Baskovich (who also took a charge) swung momentum in Porterville's direction, giving it a 57-55 lead.
The visitors did tie the game 70-70 late in the fourth quarter, but Bradford, Davy Baltus and forward Leonard Herring, who slam dunked the ball on a fast break to give the Pirates an 89-76 lead, helped the team go on a 21-9 run to end the game.
"Guys did a good job of withstanding whatever they had going on," Haynes said. "We just wanted to pick up the tempo in the second half. Guys played well."