With the defense struggling to get stops and two his best players in foul trouble, Atascadero coach Fred Price made a switch towards the end of the third quarter of Friday night’s game at San Luis Obispo.
“We had Gabe (Perry) and Elijah (Cooks) out of the game a lot and I wanted them on the floor more so we went to the 2-3 (zone) to keep them out of foul trouble,” Price said.
“It worked to perfection.”
The move clogged the middle and forced San Luis Obispo to fire from the outside. None of the Tigers long shots hit their mark and Atascadero (11-5, 3-2 PAC 8) came away with the 45-41 win.
San Luis Obispo made just two field goals in the second half and scored four points in the fourth quarter.
“When we came out of half time we were like, ‘we need to step it up on defense.’ That became a huge part of our game,” senior guard Michael McClain said. “We started playing a lot better defense and getting out and running and doing what we do best.”
No one was running in the first half. A foul-filled first two quarters saw four players on each team rack up two fouls before half time, including Cooks and Perry. The early foul trouble by Price’s stars forced him to go to the bench players earlier than expected.
“I think out depth on our bench was huge for us,” Price said. “Guys stepped up and gave some rest and guys had fresh legs at the end that really helped us.”
Kyler Warren, all 6-foot-6 of him, came off the bench and scored 5 of his team high 10 points in the second quarter to keep the Greyhounds with in striking distance. Bench player Braden Ennis also came in and scored five points in the quarter.
San Luis Obispo led 30-24 at the break behind 12 points from Seth Moore. He finished with a team high 14.
Although Atascadero shot just 59 percent from the free throw line, McClain was flawless. McClain used his unorthodox shot to go 8-for-8 from the free throw line, his only points of the night. He also grabbed nine rebounds. His final make came with 33 seconds left to give Atascadero a 44-39 lead.
“An idol for me is Larry Bird and he wouldn’t leave the front yard until he made 50 free throws in a row, so that motivates me,” McClain said. “I want to make those big shots at the end.”
“San Luis is tough,” Price said. “They are at you the whole time. They make a shot here or there it could have been a different game. Especially since we missed those free throws.”
Augusto Supertino finished with 11 points for San Luis Obispo while Nick Atalla and Alex Chai, typically reliable scorers for the Tigers, were held to just six combined points.
Price said he’s proud of his team after pulling out road wins against Righetti and San Luis Obispo this week.
“We’re excited,” McClain said. “Next week we’re at Arroyo Grande and Pioneer Valley and we want to get back at St. Joe’s and Mission Prep. We know we can beat both of those teams. We just want to come out hungry.”