The student rooting section at Turlock High School unveiled a new gadget during the Bulldogs’ 60-43 Central California Conference victory over Atwater on Wednesday night.
The students, copying what they learned from watching Arizona State students on the Internet, unveiled their Curtain of Distraction at the east end of the gymnasium.
As an Atwater free-throw shooter toed the line, a Turlock student would emerge from behind the curtain – basically, a 6-foot tall shower curtain hung on a portable rod – in an outlandish costume.
“We just came up with some silly things to try to throw them off,” said Turlock senior Todd Atkinson. “This was the first game, but it will be back.”
At different times, a sumo wrestler, a guy in a huge sombrero, and even Santa Claus, emerged to make noise and wave their arms in an effort to distract the Falcons.
“We checked with the officials before the game and they said as long as the students stayed behind the baseline, they were OK,” said Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot. “I think it shocked (Atwater) a little bit.”
That might explain why the Falcons shot just 59 percent from the line (10 of 17), but it doesn’t offer any reason why they were so cold from the field, when the curtain was closed for business.
After leading 12-11 after the first quarter, Atwater didn’t hit a field goal until 1:21 remained in the half.
“We didn’t play well against them the first time we played them either,” said Atwater coach Jason Boesch, whose team lost to the Bulldogs 51-31 in Atwater on Jan. 9 to start league play. “They’re physical, and we know they’re physical. And I think that got to us tonight.
“Sometimes we were tentative and hesitant, not attacking. Their physicality wears on us.”
Though Turlock opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and the Falcons didn’t hit a field goal for more than six minutes, a modest 6-2 burst near the end of the half helped Atwater climb within 24-22 at intermission. But another cold spell to start the third quarter allowed Turlock to pull away for good.
“We mixed up our defenses pretty well,” Cornfoot said. “We’d go man, then zone … 1-2-2, then 3-2. We gave them some different looks so they couldn’t settle in.”
The Bulldogs were also able to control the glass, thanks in large part to 6-foot-5 senior Travis Cook and 6-4 junior Habib Velasquez, a transfer student from Mexico who recently became eligible after sitting out the mandatory 30 days under the transfer rule.
“Habib really helps us on the boards and allows us to get out and run a little bit,” Cornfoot said.
Offensively, Demsen McFaddin led the Bulldogs with 11 points, while Brody Patterson led Atwater (10-13, 2-4) with 12.
Turlock (12-9, 5-1) entered the game tied with Golden Valley for first place in the CCC, but the Bulldogs got a little help from crosstown rival Pitman, which topped GV 54-45. The Cougars dipped to 4-2 and into a tie for second with Merced, a 65-32 winner over Buhach Colony.
The Bulldogs will try to hang on to sole possession of first place Friday when they travel to Merced to take on the Bears.