Brandon Hellstrom is quite the astute historian of Beyer High basketball for only having been the head coach for five years.
He knows exactly what the Patriots’ 58-54 victory over Davis on Monday means to the school, but that’s where his superstition kicks in.
“The last time Beyer had a win like that was at Turlock to win the CCC in 2004,” Hellstrom said. “We were fortunate that night that Benny Koochoie missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. We stormed the court and Turlock didn’t like it.
“But this was a big game. We needed to go 1-0 tonight and now we need to go 1-0 Wednesday at Gregori, and that’s going to be a tough task. We all know that if we win Wednesday and then go 1-0 against Enochs on Friday, well, we all know what that will mean and we don’t want to say it.”
Hellstrom wouldn’t say, so here goes. If Beyer wins its last two games, it will be no worse than a Modesto Metro Conference co-champion. If two Patriots’ wins are matched by Davis winning its last three MMC games, the two will finish as co-champions. Meanwhile, Gregori – with three conference losses – is there to pounce if either the Patriots or Spartans stumble.
But a Beyer-Davis co-title might be fitting, seeing as how evenly matched these teams seem to be. Davis won the first battle 58-52 on its home floor, with Monday’s rematch coming on Beyer’s court.
And like that first MMC battle, this one came down to the final seconds.
Davis (14-9 overall and 7-2 in the MMC) didn’t score after tying the game at 54-54 on a free throw by Jordan Davis with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left, and really didn’t get many good looks down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Beyer – which did its best to attack the basket all game – stayed with that plan and edged ahead on single free throws by Julian Orozco and Donovan Galloway. But when Galloway’s drive was blocked with 28 seconds left, Davis had one final chance to tie the game.
Brennan Pope drove to the basket and missed, but teammate O’Shay Nichols grabbed the rebound. Before Nichols could go back up, he was stripped by Beyer sophomore George Dancer, who fed ahead to Jake Polack for the game-clinching backet with two seconds remaining. Dancer and Polack had 10 points apiece with Polack scoring seven of the Patriots’ 10 fourth-quarter points.
“We just stayed aggressive,” said Galloway, who scored nine of his team-high 17 points in the first quarter to get the Patriots off to a good start. “We didn’t want to let Davis throw the first punch, so we made sure we were on the attack from the start.”
Pope led all scorers with 19 points, but got only six after halftime because Beyer gave him the star treatment. The 6-3 senior guard was never left alone and often had two Patriot defenders running at him or chasing him across the court.
“It’s a credit to Pope that we needed to do that,” Hellstrom said. “He’s in the upper echelon of the players in our league and we respect that. It’s a tribute to him that other teams, like we did, run two players at him just to keep him from getting the ball. That’s the treatment guys like Steph Curry got in college.”
Nate McGhee hit four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points for Davis, but the Spartans had very little luck finishing the few times they got the ball inside.
“Pope did a good job of distributing the ball when they came out on him, but I lost count of how many times we didn’t finish after he passed the ball, “Davis coach Dan Pacheco said.
And so as the MMC enters its final week, it’s a three-team battle for, well, if Hellstrom won’t say the word, Galloway will.
“Winning a championship at Beyer would mean everything,” he said. “We’ve been working towards a championship since the beginning of summer, and everyday at practice we go hard so that everybody gets better.”