Jarrell Davis crept past the Golden Valley bench and into the corner, tip-toeing by enemy lines.
He might as well have been a ghost. A mole. A spy with a crack shot.
No one saw him.
The Buhach Colony guard collected the inbounds pass and calmly stroked a 3-pointer without so much as a finger waved in his direction.
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By the time GV's defense reacted, Davis was in mid-air, the ball arcing toward the bucket.
The play proved obsolete in the end. Golden Valley eventually pulled away from Buhach Colony 84-65, but one thing was painfully obvious: little mistakes are becoming huge concerns for Golden Valley head coach Keith Hunter.
Passes thrown into the crowd.
Inconsistent for much of the season, execution tonight is paramount to Golden Valley's success down the stretch.
Golden Valley squares up against Central California Conference-leader Merced at Merced College, its playoff hopes flickering.
Tipoff is set for 7:15 p.m.
The rivalry game took on added importance earlier in the week, when the Sac-Joaquin Section's second set of power ratings were released.
Merced has all but secured its place among the top seeds in the Division I playoffs.
The section's No. 3 seed, Merced is in line for its fourth straight conference championship with three games to go.
As for Golden Valley (5-4 CCC, 13-11 overall)...
It's been a season-long struggle for Hunter's fresh-faced group -- a collection of first-year varsity players and returners in new roles.
Golden Valley plummeted outside the top-16 in Division I on Monday, landing on the bubble at No. 17 with less than two weeks left in the season.
For weeks, Hunter has said that Golden Valley would need to knock off one of the CCC's Big Three -- Turlock, Merced (8-1, 20-4) or Pitman (6-3, 15-9) -- to have a chance at clinching a second consecutive postseason berth.
GV came close against Turlock (8-2, 20-5), squandering a nine-point lead in a 66-50 loss.
"We're getting better. We played well," Hunter said. "I'm pleased with how we played. I think they're getting it.
"When things don't go our way, when you need to change momentum, you have to come down and run your offense. You can't answer a great shot with a quick shot. That's adding fuel to the fire," he added. "We have to understand to stop momentum, you do it by making the other team play defense. You run your stuff for 25 seconds and get something at the rim. That's the way to break runs or stop runs. We don't understand that yet."
Now Merced and Pitman await, representing hope's final stand.
Merced won the first meeting 88-65 on Jan. 20, despite turning the ball over 30 times.
"That's going to be our No. 1 priority," Knott said. "They put a lot of pressure on the ball. They always do. So our No. 1 priority is to take care of it."
GV hasn't been so fortunate. Most of its mistakes have proven costly.
Two plays ultimately robbed Golden Valley of the upset it so desperately needs last Friday against Turlock, Hunter said.
In a span of three possessions, Golden Valley left two loose balls on the floor for Turlock to collect and score off of.
One came on a steal. After jarring the ball loose, three Golden Valley players leaked out on a fastbreak believing one of the other two would grab the ball.
Instead, Turlock did.
Two possessions later, GV failed to clear a rebound. The ball bounced into the hands of a Turlock player, who dropped it through the rim. The eight-point swing showed itself in the final score.
"We don't have the firepower to make the mistakes we're making. We have to play cleaner and take advantage of every opportunity. We can't give them away like the other night," Hunter said.
"Even when we had a nine-point lead or whatever, I'm sitting there thinking, 'Uh-oh.' There was nobody else around. Those are things that come back to haunt us."
James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.