When Gregori went ahead 23-8 with five and a half minutes left in the second quarter of Friday night’s Central California Athletic League matchup with Enochs, it looked like the Jaguars would coast to victory.
The Eagles did their best to make things interesting.
Behind a roaring home crowd capped at 500 people, Enochs came storming back in the second half to force overtime. Despite squandering an early lead, the Jaguars stepped up when they needed to, outscoring Enochs 10-3 in overtime to secure a 63-56 win.
“It was a great game and great atmosphere,” Gregori coach Ryan Green said. “The guys played their butts off tonight ... this was probably the game of the week.”
Both teams were shorthanded.
Gregori (7-13, 2-2) was without six of its players, all of whom play “significant minutes” Green said. To replace them, he called up four players from the junior varsity team, all except one had no varsity experience. After spending just one day with the varsity team, they suited up in a hostile environment.
“It’s almost a welcome to varsity moment,” Green said. “What better way to be introduced to varsity basketball than a rivalry game at the opponent’s homecoming ... I thought they stepped up.”
Enochs (11-8, 0-2) was missing its three best players, taking away what head coach Craig Bernardi feels was his team’s biggest strength at the start of the season, depth. Two sat with injuries and will miss extended time.
After going into halftime with a 25-15 lead, Gregori’s offense went cold, scoring just seven third-quarter points. The Eagles’ offense erupted for 18 points in the quarter, giving them a 33-32 lead heading into the fourth.
“I thought if we could go into halftime down 10, and make some adjustments we might be able to pull back into it,” Bernardi said. “Comebacks are fun, but usually, if it’s more than 10, you’re wasting so much energy to get back into it.”
The Eagles’ comeback was paced by senior transfer Marcus Purugganan, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half and overtime.
Gregori’s offense found life again in the fourth, paced by leading scorer Kyle Monk
Monk drained three-point baskets on back-to-back possessions to put the Jaguars ahead 49-46 with two minutes, 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I knew that if I could get space and I could see the rim I could get a shot off,” said Monk, who finished with 34 points and 10 rebounds. “I was feeling confident and I was feeling good.
“I think that when we stay composed, even in times of those slumps, and get out and not beat ourselves up it’s huge.”
Enochs had one final scoring run in its system.
The Eagles scored six points in the final stretch of the quarter capped by a corner three from Purugganan to tie the game at 53, but unfortunately for them Gregori owned the final frame.
Monk got the scoring going with a layup and Dylan Vong connected on a corner three shortly after. Landon Gutierrez sank on three free throws and Paul Contreras added two in overtime.
“We played with a lot of energy and we played with a lot of physicality,” said Green, whose team takes on Modesto (6-7, 1-3) and Pitman (10-7, 2-0) next week. “We’ve been trying to figure out who’s gonna be a dog for us.”
Enochs is in the midst of a four-game losing streak and will need to turn things around quickly if it wants to make the playoffs. It plays Pitman and Downey next week.
With the second half of league coming in the next couple of weeks, Green said the message to his team stays constant.
“We control our own destiny,” Green said “It’s what’s written on the board before each game now. We control our destiny. Where do we want to end up?”