Nobody wants to get stuck with a play-in game when it comes time for the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs.
But as far as Turlock High’s boys team is concerned, it might just be what it needs if it has any chance of pulling an upset in the next round.
The 15th-seeded Bulldogs defeated No. 18 Edison (Stockton) 60-47 Friday night in a Division I play-in game at Bulldog Arena.
If Turlock had been seeded 13th or lower, the Bulldogs would not have opened postseason play until Wednesday – a two-week gap since their Central California Conference finale.
“I have some friends who played college ball and I invited them to practice with us,” said Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot, himself a former standout at Cal State Stanislaus. “We had a little scrimmage and it kept us in the routine of having a game on Wednesday and Friday.
“I’d like to think it helped.”
It didn’t help much early, as both teams came out cold. The first field goal of the game came with nearly three minutes gone by, as Turlock came up empty on three of its first four possessions, while the Vikings had five empty trips to start the game.
“We have some guys who try to freelance a little too much,” said Cornfoot. “They’re players, and they see things, but we want them to stay within the confines of what we’re trying to do.”
With Edison committed to a zone defense, and with Turlock unable to shoot the Vikes out of the alignment, Cornfoot wanted his team to spread the ball and create space for entry passes to the big men – 6-foot-5 senior Travis Cook and 6-4 junior Habib Velasquez.
Once the Bulldogs were able to do that consistently, they were off and running.
“We knew they were going to play a lot of zone defense, from what we’d seen of them,” said Cook, who scored a game-high 23 points. “So we knew where to go and what gaps to attack. I thought we were pretty prepared.”
Velasquez chipped in with 14 points, and between the two, they did solid work on the boards, limiting Edison’s second-shot opportunities while helping the Bulldogs get extra chances.
“It’s hard for teams to guard both of us,” said Cook, who averages 8.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. “He takes a lot of pressure off me.”
Up next for Turlock is a trip to Sacramento to face No. 2 seed Sheldon (18-6), a five-time section champ since 2007, which includes a string of four straight from 2010-2013.
The Bulldogs are realistic about their chances, but they also remember last season, when they faced top-seed Jesuit of Carmichael and trailed the perennial section powerhouse 28-26 at halftime before a dismal third-quarter sank their chances.
“We go up to summer tournaments at Sheldon and Jesuit,” said Cornfoot. “We’re playing against teams there and we’re competitive. There’s really nothing a team can put on us that we haven’t seen, so we should be prepared.”
Cook thinks the ’Dogs will be.
“Looking back on (Jesuit), we know what to expect on the road versus a better team,” said Cook. “I think it’ll help our mindset for that game.
“It’s kind of good being the underdog, we don’t have much to lose. We just have to give it our all and go for it.”