The final quarter of the Enochs High basketball season unfolded in a slow motion montage of missed shots and turnovers.
Why slow motion? Because it was nothing short of a nightmare, and most nightmares play out in half-speed.
The Eagles’ solid season ended with a zero, as they failed to score in the fourth quarter of their 51-34 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff loss to Tokay.
“We didn’t score in the fourth quarter,” said Enochs coach Randy Rubio in a tone that made it seem the reality of the eight-minute schneid was just sinking in.
“I think the only time as a varsity coach I've been shut out in a quarter before tonight was maybe against Modesto Christian. That might have happened when I was coaching lower levels.”
Even more shocking than a Division I playoff team enduring such a scoring drought was how it played out. Because before the drought, this was the Eagles’ game to win.
Enochs (16-12) had a 27-19 lead two minutes into the third quarter after Spencer Wilcox drilled a 3-pointer, forcing Tokay (15-13) to call an early second-half time-out.
The difference in the game to that point was energy. The Tigers were bigger, taller and more athletic, but they were being outworked by the Eagles. Essentially, all Tokay had to do to get back into the game was play with more hustle and enthusiasm, and somehow that switch was flipped.
The Tigers immediately embarked on a 14-0 run, with six different players contributing to their first strong surge.
“The first half we came out strong, because we knew what we were here to do,” said Matthew Page, who led all scorers with 11 points. “Maybe in the second half we got content with how we had played. We couldn't get anything to go our way and the game just played out from there.”
Tokay also made an interesting strategic move. Midway through the run – as soon as the Tigers took the lead 28-27 following an offensive rebound – they began to apply full-court pressure.
Enochs, which was having trouble getting into any offensive rhythm as it was, suddenly had trouble even getting across midcourt and into the offense.
“Their pressure bothered us,” Rubio said. “We tried to dribble through it and throw over it, and you absolutely cannot do either of those things against pressure. That was a lesson in how not to break a press.”
Enochs came back with a 5-0 run of its own, with Page’s layup pulling the Eagles within 35-34 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
The senior had no reason to think it would be the final points of his high school career, and it was unfathomable that those would be the final points of the Enochs season.
“Nothing was falling for us,” Page said. “I guess Tokay deserved it for the way they came out in the second half and took things over.”
It wasn’t the way the Eagles wanted the season to end, but on the other hand it was an accomplishment for Enochs to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“I'm proud of the kids – they played hard,” Rubio said. “Tokay's a good team and it was a great for us to come here, get out of the area and play a playoff game. This was a good experience for all of us and a lot of fun.”