This is what can happen when two schools without recent postseason success meet in the first round of the playoffs.
One one hand there was the host team, Central Catholic High, which committed 22 turnovers, missed 17 free throws and got only 19 points from its usually potent big-man tandem.
Then there was Escalon, a scrappy team very much improved in the final month of the season, relying and dying from beyond the arc, from where the Cougars connected on only 6 of 28 attempts.
Yes, jitters won in Wednesday night's playoff opener, but Central Catholic was the survivor by a 59-49 decision.
The victory was the first bit of good news received by the Raiders, who had not prevailed in a postseason contest since 2004. The second piece of good news was that Capital Christian had upset fourth-seeded Amador, giving Central Catholic another home game Friday night.
The Raiders, 23-5 and seeded No. 5 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs, will host No. 13 seed Capital Christian at 7 o'clock Friday night. The winner of game game not only advances to next Wednesday's semifinals at Tokay High, but earns a berth in the expanded NorCal regional playoffs.
For much of Wednesday's game Central Catholic looked little like the composed team that won 10 of its last 11 games to claim a Western Athletic Conference title.
The Raiders' guards were having trouble holding onto the ball, and the inside duo of Dusty Killian (10 points) and Dan Hulst (nine points) never really had their way against the quicker Cougars.
But even when Hulst and Killian are not scoring, they're patrolling the paint in the Raiders' defense, in this case keeping Escalon from driving to the basket.
So what determined this game was Escalon's inability to score from the outside, coupled with Hulst and Killian making sure that the missed 3-pointer would be the Cougars' only shot of the possession.
"There were about three points in the game when we pushed the ball and were able to build the lead," said Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson. "The key for us was that, except for a few times, they only got one shot."
Escalon (17-11) actually hit its first three-point attempt, as Tyler Schuurman connected from deep and had seven of his 12 points as the Cougars leaped to a 10-5 lead just four minutes into the action.
But the Cougars would go cold from that point well into the fourth quarter, connecting on only one of their next 15 3-point attempts and scoring only 16 points in the following 21 minutes.
"We didn't hit anything in the first half and then scored only seven points in the third quarter," said Escalon coach Martin Louro. "We got the looks we wanted, so I can't complain about that. I thought we were getting the ball right where we wanted in the zone."
When Liam Smith got loose for seven of his game-high 13 points in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter, Central Catholic led 48-28 and was rolling.
Then, it was the Raiders' turn to show their jitters.
"Our game was very streaky tonight," Wilson said. "We'd attack and spread the lead, and then we'd look bad again for a while."
Escalon got an unexpected spark when forward Travis Cardoza — who led the Cougars' football team in sacks last fall — came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and score 10 points. His success seemed to take the lid off the basket for Escalon, when embarked on a 16-2 run to cut Central's lead to 50-44 with 1:50 remaining.
The Raiders helped Escalon's cause by missing seven consecutive free throws, but as soon as the Cougars got close they self-destructed by committing turnovers on three straight possessions.
Central finally found the range from the line, making seven of its last nine to pull away to the 10-point win.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.