ELK GROVE – About 20 minutes before tipoff, one of the officials assigned to Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II quarterfinal approached Kyle McKim and asked a simple question:
“Where is Bayer?” as if the school somehow had ties to the aspirin-maker.
McKim, the Beyer High School coach, is used to such ignorance, although he hopes more people will know about Patriots basketball after an exceptional season that ended when they took host Cosumnes Oaks to double overtime before falling 85-82.
In many ways, being Beyer gave the Patriots license to wear the shoulder chip this season. They perceived themselves as the only people who expected anything great from this season’s team and used that as constant motivation.
“I hope they know where we’re from now,” said Jake Polack, who was introduced as “Jack” before scoring 14 points. “That’s sometimes how it goes, and I hope we’re on the map now. Hopefully, we’ve created something we can build on for the future, for the guys coming back.”
All the Patriots have to do to springboard the program into next season is pull out the video from the fourth quarter. After falling behind 16-4 in the opening six minutes, the Patriots (24-5) trailed the Wolfpack (22-7) by around 10 the entire game.
The largest deficit was 15, and Beyer still trailed 64-54 with 3:51 left in regulation – that close only because Tanner Gentry hit four consecutive three-pointers to open the final quarter.
“I had no idea how many points I had there,” said Gentry, who scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter. “I was just shooting because the team kept telling me to shoot.”
Gentry’s hot hand opened the middle for the Patriots, who got two baskets inside from Sam Levantini, another three-pointer from Gentry, a layup from George Dancer (18 points) and finally a drive by Polack with 57 seconds left that capped the 12-1 run and gave Beyer its first lead, 66-65.
The Patriots had a turnover and a misfire inside in their last two possessions, and Eric Toles (24 points) of Cosumnes Oaks tied the score with a free throw with five seconds left.
Beyer’s best chance to win came at the end of the first overtime. Toles fouled out with 2:40 left in the extra session, and the Patriots scored five points in a row to grab a 71-67 lead.
With Toles out, the Wolfpack turned to Jaaron Stallworth to handle the scoring, and the senior guard scored his team’s final six points in the overtime – including a tying put-back of his own miss with 38 seconds left to force another four minutes to be put on the clock.
Stallworth took over the second overtime, scoring 10 of his team’s 13 points to cap a 38-point outburst. Polack’s three-pointer with nine seconds left pulled Beyer within 83-82, but Stallworth hit two free throws with seven seconds left, and Polack’s 35-foot heave at the buzzer didn’t draw iron.
There were many tears as Beyer emerged from the locker room, but they were brushed aside by the pride that now resides in the Patriots’ program.
“We’re turning people into believers, showing them that a public school team can make it this far,” Gentry said. “We know we have 14 to 16 guys on our own campus who can do this together.”
And as far as Beyer being on the map? Well, it’s always been there, but this team has given many teams headaches while giving the region’s basketball fans a reason to plug the name – of the school, not the aspirin – into a search engine.
“For us, it’s not trying to prove anything to anybody, but we have proved to ourselves that a lot of hard work was worth it in the end,” McKim said. “We’ll be back at it in a couple weeks.”