In the first quarter, Atascadero High junior guard Joe Johnson caught fire for nine points at Arroyo Grande on Friday to help build an early 14-point lead.
Then in the third quarter, Greyhounds junior forward Jared Stuedemann scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers, to maintain a comfortable cushion.
Johnson finished with 19 points, and Stuedemann had 21 and five rebounds as the Greyhounds beat the Eagles 65-58, fending off a fourth-quarter comeback by Arroyo Grande.
The win sets up a showdown next week for Atascadero, now second in the PAC 7, against St. Joseph on Monday and Righetti on Wednesday. Both games are at home for the Greyhounds.
Atascadero (14-8, 7-2) is in a tie for second with St. Joseph, and Righetti is in first with an 8-1 league record, giving the Greyhounds a shot at the league title if they win out.
Johnson got off to a hot start, knocking down his first three shots, including one 3-pointer.
And his teammates followed his lead later in the game, particularly Stuedemann, who drained four 3-pointers in the second half. As a team, the Greyhounds nailed 13 3-pointers.
“I think we got off to a great start,” Johnson said. “It seemed like we hit our first five or six shots in a row as a team. We were getting great penetration and good looks off kickouts.”
After Atascadero built a 21-7 first-quarter lead, Arroyo Grande (16-8, 5-5) struggled to close the gap until the fourth quarter when they got within five points in the final minutes.
The Eagles were led by Matt Willkomm’s 21 points, and Cobe Williams scored 11. Both hit clutch 3-pointers down the stretch but it wasn’t enough.
“They obviously played a great first half offensively,” Arroyo Grande coach Ryan Glanville said. “(Atascadero point guard) Rob Berwick did a great job of finding every single one of his open teammates and getting them involved. And we allowed them too many runs to get back into the game.”
Berwick finished with seven points and 10 assists as he repeatedly collapsed the Arroyo Grande defense with drives to the lane before finding wide open teammates on the perimeter.
Stuedemann scored 14 of his 21 in the second half and said that hitting a 3-pointer early in the third quarter sparked his offense.
“I started feeling good after that first one, and Rob got me open for some more looks,” Stuedemann said. “We knew we had a chance at league so we came into this one playing really good defense and just ready to play. We’ve been working hard on defense.”
After the Greyhounds took a 52-37 lead entering the fourth quarter, Arroyo Grande used a press to force some turnovers and began to shoot the ball well.
But every time the Eagles got close, Atascadero found a way to keep its lead intact and finished much more comfortably than the 49-48 win at home against Arroyo Grande in their first matchup.
“I think we played the way we always try to play to — look for the open man,” Atascadero coach Matt Knudson said. “I tell the guys to play for the team and we have to just keep on doing that in our next games.”