BARSTOW • The Barstow boys basketball team treated its fans to a rollercoaster of a ride in the final game of the regular season.
The Aztecs hosted Granite Hills on Friday with the prospect of qualifying for playoffs still a possibility. The odds of that prospect were improved a bit, as Barstow came up with a win, hanging on to beat the Cougars, 61-57, at Barstow High School.
The Aztecs got off to a fast start and dominated the first quarter, which they led, 14-7, at the buzzer. As it turned out, that early dominance was crucial to the win, as the two teams were virtually even, offensively, the rest of the way.
"It was a good team win," said Aztecs head coach Preston Biggs. "Everyone stepped up and contributed. Some guys who haven't played as much had some good minutes."
As it was the last game of the season, it was senior night, and the Aztecs honored their four seniors prior to tip-off. Obed Ardon, Guy Miller, Anthony Addison and George Morales got a nice send-off and all got a good amount of floor time.
Morales was key in the first quarter, scoring half of his team's 14 points. The Aztecs played tight defense early on, which led to steals and turnovers. The home team was still up at halftime, but the Cougars had closed the gap from seven points to three.
The third belonged to Granite which outscored Barstow by a 20-14 margin, and took the lead for the first time. In the fourth, the intensified defense and clutch shooting gave the Aztecs the edge. Barstow put up a game-high 20 points, led by Addison, who drained four 3-pointers in the span of two minutes.
"He got hot at the right time," said coach Biggs of Addison. "We did a good job of swinging the ball over to him, and we picked up the defense."
Still, even with the amped-up defense and Addison hitting those outside shots, the game went down to the last seconds. With under 10 seconds left and Barstow up, 59-57, the Cougars had possession and successfully inbounded the ball. Any hopes they had of burying a three at the buzzer were dashed with a steal and fastbreak by Cody Boston, who instead dunked for the Aztecs as the clock ran down, for the four-point win.
Boston and Addison led the Aztecs with 12 points apiece, to which Boston added seven rebounds and four blocks, and Addison nine boards and five assists. Morales had nine points and six rebounds, and Gino Silva eight points.
It was a nice way to end the season, after a tough second half. The Aztecs had lost eight in a row, so if they do go to playoffs, they'll have a fine performance to build on.
"We stumbled a bit down the stretch, but we lost three starters. I think we have a good chance for an at-large bid for the playoffs because of the strength of our schedule," said coach Biggs. "Our schedule is so tough that the losses didn't really hurt our ranking, and we had a lot of close losses."
The Aztec seniors are definitely hoping to extend their season.
"The season has been complicated, but when you have your ups and downs, you're usually better at the end," said Morales. "Tonight was a great way to go out, it was ecstasy. It was a fun game, a great game to play."
Morales is considering attending USC, among other schools. He might play basketball, but will concentrate on his major of mechanical engineering.
"It's been a good season, I'm glad I got to spend it with my best friends," said Ardon, who will likely join the Air Force. "It's an experience I'll never forget."
"It's been a great season playing basketball with my friends," agreed Miller. "I hope we win a game in playoffs."
"We've had a slow stretch, but tonight we came through as a team," said Addison. "I'm looking forward to playoffs, I hope we go far."
The Aztecs will have to wait a couple of days to learn their postseason fate, as the seedings will be announced Sunday.