MODESTO -- In the course of the ongoing program-building effort at Beyer High, it might sound like folly to declare a loss a milestone.
But when the Patriots erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to Merced on Wednesday before falling 73-66, it was an accurate and encouraging indication of the progress being made.
Not only was Beyer able to hang with a much more athletic team, but the Patriots made clutch shots and key stops in the final seven minutes that will give them experience on which to draw as they embark on Modesto Metro Conference play.
"We're trying to build up our energy and effort and to find a consistent level with both, and I think we're getting there," said coach Brandon Hellstrom. "The foundation is in place. Everyone who went in really played hard."
The team's energy will be tested again this afternoon when the Patriots take on Johansen at 3:30 p.m. at Gregori in consolation bracket play at the Modesto City Classic. Merced advanced to the championship bracket for a game at Gregori against Central Catholic at 6:30 p.m.
The 16-team tournament continues through Saturday at both the Gregori and Downey gyms.
Beyer led for much of the first half, but Merced built a 52-42 lead early in the fourth quarter by controlling the pace of the game.
The Patriots fell into the Bears' trap by trying to play at Merced's speed instead of being patient after breaking the half-court pressure. The result often was quick shots that were turned into fast-break baskets at the other end.
"Defense is the key for us because if we can create chaos we can go from there," said Merced coach Hector Nava. "Now we just need to learn how to value the basketball."
The Bears seemed to relax for a moment after getting that 10-point lead, and Beyer suddenly found its own pace.
An 8-0 run pulled the Patriots within two points, although they wouldn't tie the score until Zach Porterfield (17 points) hit two free throws with 3.9 seconds left to force a 60-60 tie at the end of regulation. Julian Orozco led Beyer with 18 points on six 3-pointers.
"We know we can't sustain that for 32 minutes, but we can have longer stretches of that, with some of that in each quarter," Hellstrom said. "That will give us something on which to hang our hat."
Merced aided Beyer's cause with a horrible performance at the line, hitting only 17 of 36 free throws.
But with the game tied 63-63 midway through the overtime, the Bears' defense came to the rescue, forcing four straight turnovers that fueled a 7-0 scoring run to take control at 70-63 with 39.5 seconds left.
Merced got ample output from its guards, with Travante Richard erupting for 24 points, David Keyes adding 15 and Jonathan Chairez getting most of his 12 points from the outside.
"We could have had a little better plan down the stretch and I should have done a better job there," Hellstrom said. "But I'm very, very impressed with both teams tonight. A couple things here and there, all the generic basketball things, could have made the difference."
CENTRAL CATHOLIC. 58, JOHANSEN 38, at Gregori John Fenton had 25 points and 10 rebounds as the Raiders dominated inside.
Forwards Joe Hamilton and Jake Bland added 12 and 10 points for Central Catholic, as Johansen, unable to go inside, relied exclusively on its perimeter game to keep up. Pablo Ochoa led the Vikings with nine points before fouling out.
TURLOCK 51, ENOCHS 42, at Gregori The Bulldogs held the Eagles scoreless for a span of 5:14 covering the late third and early fourth quarters to turn a two-point lead into an 11-point margin. Darren Trainor and Austin Bush had 11 points apiece for Turlock, which kept the final margin close by missing 11 free throws in the fourth quarter. Stone Shaw led Enochs with nine points.
DAVIS 55, PITMAN 41, at Downey Tre Sommers hit two 3-pointers en route to 22 points, and Brennan Shearer-Pope added 11, and the Spartans pulled away to the win by holding the Pride to seven fourth-quarter points. Gurvinder Uppal led Pitman with 11 points.
LATHROP 49, GREGORI 48, at Gregori In a strange game with wild swings, the Spartans prevailed behind the 15 points of Robert Orantes. The Jaguars trailed 9-0, rallied to lead 25-13, then watched Lathrop go on a 14-2 spurt toward the end of the first half to erase all of it.
The game was close from that point on, but Mikey Pereznegron and Eric Spencer scored on back-to-back possessions to give Lathrop a 48-43 lead with 1:34 left and Spartans held on from there. Darius Nuttall led Gregori with 12 points.
Modesto City Classic Boys Tournament schedule At Downey: Pitman vs. Los Banos, 3:30 p.m.; Atwater vs. Manteca-Downey loser, 5 p.m.; Davis vs. Golden Valley, 6:30 p.m.; Modesto vs. Manteca-Downey winner, 8 p.m. At Gregori: Johansen vs. Beyer, 3:30 p.m.; Enochs vs. Gregori, 5 p.m.; Central vs. Merced, 6:30 p.m.; Turlock vs. Lathrop, 8 p.m.