TURLOCK — Travis Souza did his best to shut out the frenzied screams raining down on him, a mix of Turlock High fans urging him on and Pitman supporters hoping to fluster the sophomore.
"This isn't like any other game we're going to play, because it's the two Turlock schools," Souza said. "Everything is more important when the two of us play."
The pressure of playing a rival didn't bother Souza, though, as he hit six free throws in the final 32 seconds to preserve a 58-56 upset of Pitman in Turlock's gym.
The win leaves Turlock (15-6, 4-2) and Pitman (13-6, 4-2), The Bee's No. 2-ranked large school, tied for second in the Central California Conference. First-place Merced is 6-0 in the conference.
Souza's heroics became necessary after Pitman rallied from a 16-point deficit, closing to within 50-47 on Austin Keaton's driving layup with 1:04 left in the game.
Efrem Harris (16 points) took a half-court pass on the inbounds play and made a layup for a 52-47 lead, but Keaton's ability to penetrate proved crucial on Pitman's next two trips down the court.
As Turlock collapsed on the agile Keaton, he sent a no-look pass to Juan Flores in the right corner. Flores hit a trey — the pair duplicated the play seconds later — to put the crowd in a frenzy.
Souza, though, answered both treys by going to the line and hitting two free throws on each of Turlock's next two possessions and the 'Dogs stayed ahead 56-53.
When Keaton's 3-point attempt glanced off the rim with 8 seconds left, Souza grabbed it and was quickly fouled. He hit two more free throws, and the points proved invaluable when Keaton ended the game with a 3-pointer.
"We talked during a timeout about him driving to the basket, and we were ready to give up a basket to prevent a three," Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot said. "We collapsed on him, though, and he made a few good passes."
Turlock led 39-23 in the third quarter, with Gavin Souza scoring the Bulldogs' first eight points in the period. His flurry featured a trey from the corner, then he hit three free throws when he was fouled on an errant 3-point shot.
"We're not tall, so we rely on our shooters, which makes us a streaky team," said Cornfoot, who watched Pitman rally when his team went cold. "We rushed things more than we needed to."
Keaton (13 points) and guard Ryan Clay (10) provided all the scoring on a 10-2 run that carried into the fourth quarter and pulled the Pride to within 43-38.
That set up the furious finish.
"Some of these kids played together in junior high and they're together on travel teams, so our games can get pretty emotional," said Cornfoot, whose club will visit Pitman in the regular-season finale. "It will be tough for that next game to match this."