It took a little too long for the Modesto Junior College men's basketball team to get going Friday.
Despite rallying from 24 points behind to lead late, the host Pirates lost to American River 71-68.
It was the third loss in a row for Modesto, which ends the first half of Big 8 Conference play Tuesday at Delta.
"We really need to get a win," MJC coach Paul Brogan said. "A win (Friday) would have put us in the thick of the playoff race.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Modesto Bee
"We have to feed off this. We need to play with a sense of urgency from the opening tip."
It took a 41-21 halftime deficit to spur the Pirates. Modesto (12-10, 1-5 Big 8) had trouble rebounding and hitting shots in the first half, but appeared to shake off those chains in the second.
In the last 11 minutes, Modesto mounted a methodical comeback as Brian Bergerson and Eleazar Jones took turns sinking 3-pointers. The Pirates went on a 23-2 run, starting with a Bergerson trey with 10:21 to go.
Jones made seven 3-pointers, six in the second half, to lead the Pirates with 23 points. Bergerson finished with 17, including four 3-pointers, and Marvin Jefferson added 16.
Jones said he just took advantage of what little space American River gave him to shoot, especially after making two in a row early in the second half. He hopes Modesto can play harder in the second half of the season.
"In the first half we don't play like we do in the second half," Jones said. "The last four games have been like that. We're good enough to beat any team in this league. We need to play like that the whole game, with a sense of urgency."
Modesto briefly led when Bergerson made three of four free throws after the Beavers' A.J. Gold drew two technical fouls and was ejected with 2:37 remaining. American River (16-9, 4-2 Big 8) tied the game on a Michael Selling layup.
Darren Lee, who led the Beavers with 30 points, made the last of his six 3-pointers with 18 seconds left to give his team the victory. Modesto couldn't respond and had to walk away disappointed about what could have been.
"When you hit the shots, everything looks like it works a little bit better," Brogan said. "When you get in that zone, nothing can stop you. It's too bad we didn't finish."