The Cuesta College men’s basketball team reached another final of a tournament, facing Fresno City College in the championship game of the Modesto Tournament on Saturday night.
It was the third title game of the season for the Cougars, and after a 101-76 loss, Cuesta is 0-3 in those games.
The Rams (11-5) are ranked No. 14 in the state, and have a deep bench. They scored early and often in the first half, rotating players five at a time, coach Rusty Blair said, and jumped out to a 45-21 lead at halftime.
“We were tired, playing our fourth game in four days,” Blair said. “Everyone hit the wall. We don’t have quite as deep a bench.”
The Cougars (11-5) scored 55 points in the second half in a bid to get back into the game, but Fresno scored 56 to keep the double-digit margin.
Fresno had six players score in double figures, led by Nick Hilton and BJ Shelton, who scored 14 apiece.
The lost ended a five-game winning streak for the Cougars, which shot 2 for 23 from 3-point range.
“That’s the fatigue,” Blair said. “We’ve never shot that poorly. Blindfolded at practice at Cuesta, we’ve never shot 2 for 23.”
Karem Ozel led the Cougars with 19 points, shooting 9 of 20 from the floor. Rafail Eleftheriou added 17 points.
Roberto Mantovani had his streak of seven stright double-doubles stopped, scoring seven points and grabbing seven rebounds before he fouled out. He was named to the all-tournament team.
“We doing a pretty good job. If you come up here and win three in a row, your doing something good,” Blair said.
The Cougars return to action Dec. 28, when they begin play at the Allan Hancock Tournament in Santa Maria with a game against 13th-ranked Bakersfield.