ATWATER — John Bliss will take his chances in the playoffs if he can count on the same team that showed up in Buhach Colony uniforms on Friday night.
The Thunder coach liked what he saw.
Buhach Colony moved the ball crisply on offense, hit the boards hard and played suffocating defense as the Thunder cruised to a 67-53 win over Atwater in front of a near sell-out crowd in the Thunder Dome.
"We played well together," said Bliss, whose team will now wait until next week to find out when and where they will open the playoffs after finishing 6-4 in the Central California Conference and 18-9 overall.
"It's not like we had an unbelievable practice. The kids just came out and performed. They played like they wanted it."
The game was played in front of a spirited crowd that watch the junior varsity and freshmen games go overtime. Many kids in each student section were given free t-shirts.
To add to the atmosphere, Buhach Colony honored 10 senior players before the game.
"We were all pumped up, especially in front of this big crowd," said senior Joe Marquez, who scored 16 points.
The Thunder got off to a bit of a slow start without their usual starting lineup. Bliss allowed a couple seniors who don't get regular minutes to start.
Once Marquez entered late in the first quarter, Buhach Colony got rolling.
The Thunder guards attacked the paint most of night and either set up the Buhach Colony big men for easy baskets or kicked the ball out for open 3-pointers.
"We played like a team," Marquez said.
Kaden Verdin came off the bench to lead the Thunder with 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Felix Borruel added nine points and nine rebounds.
Buhach Colony outscored Atwater 21-9 in the third quarter to take a 31-22 lead into the half.
The Thunder stretched the lead to 14 points heading into the fourth quarter and then opened the final stanza with an 11-0 run to extend the lead to 56-31 with 5 minutes and 58 seconds left.
Ben Peterson found himself in foul trouble for the second straight game with three first-half fouls. The junior did erupt for14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder made sure they weren't going to be swept by Atwater (5-5, 16-11) this year after losing earlier this season.
"That was extra motivation," Bliss said. "The kids realized the mistakes we made. They learned their lesson and grew from it."
Buhach Colony finished the regular season winning four of its final five games.
"That's the way we want to go in the playoffs," Bliss said. "If we can play like this we'll be all right."