TURLOCK – Stagg sophomore Kenneth Wooten, a 6-foot-6 center with long limbs and tons of athletic ability, is a force inside the paint.
His ability to block and alter shots seemed to spook Turlock High in the opening stages of Friday night’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 boys basketball outbracket game.
But after about a quarter and a half, in which the Bulldogs shot a frosty 3-of-22 from the field, Turlock’s 6-foot-7 center Kenny Fraser seemed to have an epiphany: “Hey, I’m big, too!”
From that point on Fraser and the No. 16 Bulldogs looked like a different team and rolled to a 43-33 victory.
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After dispatching the 17th-seeded Delta Kings, Turlock (19-9) earns a trip to Carmichael where it will face No. 1 Jesuit (24-3).
“(Wooten) blocked a couple of shots early and we started trying to put our shots up a little higher and even putting some spin on the ball,” said Bulldogs coach Doug Cornfoot. “But we were still aggressive to the basket and we knew it was just a matter of time until our shots started falling.”
For a while, it looked as if those shots might never start falling.
With the Bulldogs unable to connect, Stagg was perfectly content to stay in its 2-3 zone defense. And when Turlock was able to penetrate, Wooten was waiting.
After hitting just two field goals in the first quarter, the Bulldogs didn’t score a point in the second until Travis Cook hit a free throw with 3 minutes, 19 seconds, left in the half.
From there, Turlock got hot and outscored the Delta Kings 9-2 over the final three minutes and trailed 18-17 at the break.
“You have to give them credit,” said Stagg coach Ryan Berg, whose team finished the year 10-18. “They went on that run just before the half and that got them back into it.”
Fraser had five of the nine points, taking advantage of Wooten sitting on the bench after picking up his second foul.
“We were kind of timid at first,” said Fraser, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. “We got down by about 10 early, but once we went on that little run, and were only down by one at halftime, that brought our confidence up.”
Fraser’s confidence soared in the second half, as he scored 15 points after the intermission and twice blocked Wooten’s shots.
“Nobody ever wants their season to end,” said Fraser. “We knew we had to come out and play as hard as we can because we didn’t want our season to end.”