Matt Thissen was forced to reach deep into his bag of coaching tricks on Thursday night.
For the first three quarters, the Golden Valley girls basketball coach tried urging his team.
He reminded them. He pleaded, and even tried raising his voice.
Thissen tried any angle he could think of to light a fire under his team.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, when it did happen, it was a little too late.
Golden Valley came to life against the Atwater bench in the fourth quarter, but only after spotting the Falcons a 20-point lead.
Atwater head coach J.R. Davis almost got caught unloading his bench a little too soon as the Cougars trimmed the lead to seven with just over two and a half minutes to play.
The Falcon starters managed to right the ship and Atwater pulled back away for a 41-31 victory at Cougar Arena.
"The things we did in the fourth quarter are exactly what we'd talked about doing going into the game," Thissen said. "We pushed the ball up the court and attacked the basket.
"Atwater played a great game, and has good guard quickness, but allowing them to come in and out-physical us is another story.
"That's really disappointing. And it all goes back to us being really passive for no reason."
That passive behavior was particularly evident on the GV offensive end in the first half. The Cougars refused to pull the trigger on shots, often passing the ball around the perimeter until they lost it.
Golden Valley (0-2 Central California Conference, 2-14) had eight more turnovers (25) than shots (17) in the opening half.
Atwater in contrast had 40. Fortunately for GV, they just weren't knocking many of them down.
The Falcons opened the game shooting 1 for their first 19 as the game was tied 2-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Atwater got things going in the second.
Brianne Hunter scored six of her 10 points and Natalie Govea added four as the Falcons (1-1 CCC, 4-11) took a comfortable 20-7 lead into the half.
The game looked all but over with Atwater staked to a 28-8 lead at the end of three, and Davis turned to his bench.
That's when Golden Valley found its game.
Thissen squad ran off 11 straight points, forcing Atwater's starters back into the game.
Beatriz Munoz had eight of her team-high 10 points in the fourth quarter and Jessica Lane (eight points) added seven.
With momentum on their side, the Cougars didn't stop there.
GV pushed the run to 16-0, cutting the lead to 34-27 on a pair of Beatriz Munoz (10 points) free throws with 2:40 to play.
It's as close as Golden Valley would get.
Atwater answered back with a 7-0 run, including five from sophomore center Chynna Peterson (game-high 12 points).
"I'd hoped we'd at least be fired up after the two lower-level games were close, but of course we came out slow," Davis said. "It seemed like we got things pretty well under control in the middle two quarters.
"You try to get everyone in the game, but I might have gone to the bench a little too soon. At least we finally finished a game."
Buhach Colony 61, Turlock 38
TURLOCK -- Thunder guard Jessica Silva matched a career-high with seven 3-pointers en route to a game-high 27-point performance in a road victory over Turlock.
Allison Wisdom added 18 points as Buhach Colony (2-0 CCC, 14-5) moved into sole possession of first place in the league.
Pitman 56, Merced 53 (OT)
TURLOCK -- Lexi Thompson scored a team-high 14 points and Dalonna Jones added 12, but Merced couldn't overcome 20 turnovers in an overtime loss to Pitman.
Mahogany Stitt added 11 points in the loss.
Los Banos 52, Central Catholic 44
LOS BANOS -- Alexis Barcellos just missed out on a triple-double with 17 points, 10 steals and seven rebounds in a big WAC victory over Central Catholic.
Savannah Pena added 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win.