It was an up and down week for the Bears, who despite an initial disappointing effort against U-Prep, built momentum with a victory over Paradise and a narrow loss to Pleasant Valley, to bounce back and crush U-Prep in their second meeting in five days.
A much anticipated rematch of last year’s NSCIF Division V championship game, did not go as hoped for the Bears last Monday night, as history repeated itself. They fell 54-33 to U-Prep at home after abandoning the inside game and settling for outside shots that they could not get to fall.
With Pierce struggling to score, and losing the battle on the boards 44-30, the Panthers capitalized on easy buckets in transition to break the game open with an 18-7 run after intermission.
Pierce also had a hard time containing U-Prep’s Tanner Stephens, a first team All-Northern Section selection a season ago, who dropped 34 points against the Bears to lead all scorers.
Justin Mathews had a team-high 18 points for the Bears.
A change of scenery the following night allowed Pierce to regroup as they downed Paradise 66-51 on the road behind 24 points from Luke Voorhees, 15 of which came in the second half.
Mathews added 15 points after catching fire in the second half where he drained four threes, while another Pierce big man, Christian Mata, chipped in with 12.
Playing on Friday, May 14, Pierce came up short, 50-45, to an athletic Pleasant Valley team in a see-saw battle that saw the game tied 39-39 at half and the Bears down just three with under a minute remaining in the game.
However, the disciplined Vikings were able to milk the clock before adding an insurance basket to put the game out of reach with under 10 seconds remaining.
Eduardo Paiz paced the Bears with 15 points while Voorhees tallied 11.
Although disappointed in the loss, Coach Cody McCullough was pleased with his team’s performance commenting that he “couldn’t help but be proud of that effort.”
Yet, Pierce had their best game of the week last Saturday in Redding when they exacted a little revenge and bested U-Prep 56-35, holding the Panther offense to 25 points under its season average.
According to McCullough, tactical adjustments to their offense, in addition to a burning desire to beat the Panthers, proved to be the differences in one of the team’s most significant victories.
“We went to a more penetrative offense and utilized our size to get the ball down low where they had to play help defense, which allowed us openings off the ball. We finally strung together four straight quarters of great team basketball and for all 32 minutes, they played with heart like I have never seen them play before,” said the second year head coach.
While Mathews found his groove and poured in a game-high 20 points, nine others broke into the scoring column in a complete team victory.
Now 3-3 on the season, Pierce hit the road to face Chico High on Tuesday May 18, before returning to Natalie Corona Gymnasium to take on Winters today and Colusa tomorrow.