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Honkers stun Bears, pick up first SVL win
A nine-point fourth quarter lead slipped away and a controversy at the scorers' table left Pierce High coach Noah Gomez crying foul.
The host Willows Honkers handed the Bears their first Sacramento Valley League loss on Friday, 64-60, and dropped Pierce into a tie with Live Oak atop the standings.
Pierce (11-5, 4-1 SVL) watched its lead dwindle to three points after a series of missed wide-open 3-point shots in the fourth quarter, and gave up the lead with just over a minute left.
Honkers (5-13, 1-4 SVL) forward Travis Mendes, who led his team with 22 points, appeared to pick up his fifth foul of the game, only to return moments later when the official scorekeeper said the foul was his fourth.
Gomez argued that the Bears' scorebook and the scoreboard had five fouls for Mendes, but the referees went with the official scorebook and allowed Mendes back in the game.
Jake Martin made a basket to pull the Honkers within one and, after a defensive stop, Mendes made two free throws, giving Willows a 61-60 lead with 30 seconds left — their first lead since early in the first quarter.
Mendes, who wears No. 22 for the Honkers, stole the ball on Pierce's next possession and passed to Martin, who was fouled by Pierce's Oscar Dorantes.
Dorantes, who wears No. 22 for the Bears and scored a game-high 26-points, was told the foul was his fifth.
The Pierce book and the scoreboard had it as his fourth.
Martin made both of his free throws.
"I think the home book, instead of putting (a foul) on 22 white (Mendes), they put it on 22 blue (Dorantes) and that was a huge mistake, because at the end I could have had my five best guys out there," Gomez said.
On Monday, after watching the game film, Gomez said his suspicions were confirmed, though he isn't sure which foul was given to Dorantes. Gomez said Mendes had one foul in the first half and committed the Honkers' last four fouls.
Mendes ended the game by stealing the ball with 10 seconds remaining and hit one of two free throws for the final score.
Pierce will not appeal the result of the game, Gomez said.
Willows coach Darrell Schonauer said on Monday he didn't have a chance to talk to the scorekeeper or Mendes about the fouls.
"Honestly it was up to the official scorer, it doesn't matter, that's the book. I don't know if (the official scorer) had it right or wrong," Schonauer said.
The win was an important one for the Honkers, who have struggled this year despite having the height advantage on most teams.
"It is a big one, we needed that one bad. We haven't been playing very well and they're a good team. We went overtime with them down at the tournament and figured it would be close. We played pretty well. We played with a lot more desire, and heart, and a little more fire," Schonauer said.
Pierce led by 10 points for much of the first half, but the Honkers entered halftime on a 6-2 run that cut the score to 33-27.
Honkers senior center Ryan Amaru went scoreless in the first half after he picked up his third foul just five minutes into the game, but returned after halftime to score six points in the third quarter as Willows cut the Bears' lead to three points.
The Bears struggled to knock down shots from the outside in the fourth quarter after the Honkers' zone defense took away the lanes which Dorantes and Jesus Huerta, who scored 15 points, exploited in the first half.
Joey Hernandez, who scored nine points, made Pierce's only successful 3-point shot in the fourth, giving the Bears a 58-50 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
"We went to a zone to try to stop their penetration, they did get one backdoor cut there but it was a good win for us," Schonauer said.
After Hernandez's three, Martin scored seven of his 15 points for Willows, and Pierce made just one more bucket the rest of the game.
Schonauer credited Mendes for being more aggressive on offense by attacking the hoop with his speed and 6-foot-4 frame.
"We've been on Mendes all season to go to the basket and finish and he hasn't been doing it, but tonight he did," Schonauer said.
Mendes provided a much needed boost in the first half, scoring 16 of his 22 points while Amaru spent time on the bench in foul trouble. Amaru finished with 11 points, all in the second half.
"We just have to step up and play our game and that's what we did, we stepped up the whole time and never gave up," Mendes said.
Willows plays in Live Oak on Friday.
Pierce plays at East Nicolaus on Wednesday, and travels to Durham on Thursday.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.