After coming off an impressive run at the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic last week, University High School was looking to cap their nonleague slate with a statement victory over loaded Oakland High School.
The Red Devils’ hopes for an upset were squashed, however, as they had their worst shooting night of the season, dropping a 65-54 contest to the visiting Wildcats in front a standing-room-only crowd Thursday.
Despite a slow start, Oregon-bound guard Jabari Brown had a game-high 25 points for the Wildcats (8-5), and teammate Dominque Taplin contributed 14, as Oakland won its fourth straight heading into Oakland Athletic League play.
“We started to play better defense and get stops, and that opened up our fast-break offense,” Brown said. “We got stops and our offense came around.”
University senior standout guard Noah Springwater tied with Zio Enriquez with a team-high 12 points, but had a night he’d like to forget. Springwater shot 4-of-17 from the floor and University (10-3) shot 30 percent from the field.
“We had our worst shooting night of the season, but we had a lot of good looks,” University coach Randal Bessolo said. “They made everything difficult with their speed, strength and athleticism, and when we had the open looks, we were rushing [our shots].”
After a slow first quarter for both clubs, the tempo picked up as both teams traded baskets. A put-back dunk from Brown seemed to spark Oakland, and his 3-pointer with nine seconds left in the first half would send the Wildcats into the break down 30-28.
Oakland would then go on a 16-4 run to open the second half to open up a 44-34 lead, and went into the final quarter up 50-38. University, known for its 3-point shooting, would go 0-for-6 in the quarter, much to the credit of the Wildcats’ man-to-man defense.
“I just told our team that [University] punched us in the mouth first, and that we have to respond,” Oakland coach Orlando Watkins said. “Defensively our intensity picked up, our focus picked up, we started rebounding and that changed the whole tempo of the game.”
University would make one last surge in the final frame, cutting Oakland’s lead to 60-53 with 2:12 remaining, but in the end, the Red Devils couldn’t get the big shot to drop.
“We tell guys that we don’t worry about missing good shots, and tonight we had a lot of good shots, and they didn’t fall,” Bessolo said. “Frankly, we won’t worry about missing them. We’ll hit them next game.”
Although this loss stung the Red Devils, and would have made their already impressive resume that much better, University’s goals are still intact as they head into Bay Counties League West play.
“Our goals are to win our league, be the best team in The City and win a state championship,” Bessolo said. “In spite of this loss, we feel good where we are, but we’re also reminding ourselves, satisfaction is the enemy of success, so, we’re not satisfied.”