Bears go hard in the paint, triumphantly

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The Pierce Bears were left standing after the Northern California Regional playoffs. After conquering the Panthers from Eastside College Prep in the Regional Semifinals, 54-50 on Saturday, the boys continue ever closer to the State Final.

As the top-seeded team, the Bears enjoyed a home court advantage for all the games, although, the match against Durham on March 3 for Round I, no advantage was needed. The team finished with a solid 61-46 win. 

For Round II on Thursday, Calaveras High School from San Andreas played a close game but fell short. The score was evenly tied throughout the game, but the Bears’ score was in the deficit at the beginning of the fourth. The Bears reached down, scoring nine points and securing their spot in the semifinals with a win of 56-50.

The semifinal game on Saturday was another nail-biter. The first half was ominous for the Bears as the Panthers held on to the lead. Coach Cody McCullough said that he felt switching into 2-3 zone defense before halftime showed a weak spot for Eastside College Prep. The defensive strategy was one the team practiced, although not something they have implemented much throughout the season. However, McCullough gives the credit back to his team. 

“That’s not really me coaching, that’s just good athletes taking over the game,” he said.

At the end of the third, the Panthers lost their edge with a failed shot made at the buzzer. Both teams fought valiantly but with 41 seconds left on the clock, the score was 50-50. The Panthers were unable to push past the Bears with steals from Daniel Medina, Alex High, Justin Mathews, and a block from Luke Voorhees.

The Bears won their place in the Regional Finals, played against San Dominico yesterday, although results were not available at time of press. The last time the two teams went head-to-head in December at a tournament, Pierce was the victor. McCullough said he is optimistic. 

“I just feel like everyone on the team is in a good spirit, good mood, and that that’s a pretty big deal when it comes to them playing in sync.”

If the Bears continue, they will play in the State Finals at the Golden 1 Center, in Sacramento, at noon on Friday. ■