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Photo by Chelsea Buchanan
The Aztecs' Cody Boston breaks through Big Bear's defense to score two second-half points in Tuesday's game at Barstow High School.

Bears edge Aztecs in OT

Barstow plays tough on opening night

BARSTOW • It didn’t look like an opening night, for either team.

The Barstow boys basketball team kicked off its season on Tuesday night by welcoming Big Bear to town. In a fast-paced, up-tempo, battle to the finish, the Bears were able to edge the Aztecs, 70-68, in overtime.

It was a high energy game from trom the opening tip-off. The way both teams went at it, it looked more like a mid-season match than the inaugural game that it was.

“It was an encouraging start,” said Aztecs head coach Prestonn Biggs. “In years past, this team might have folded after trailing by so much early, but these guys really fought.”

The game wasn’t a close one until the second half. The first half belonged to the Bears, who held a 15-11 lead after the first quarter, and were up by 11 points at halftime. Brad Amburgey was responsible for 12 of those points, while Tre Prudhomme had eight. The Aztecs were paced by Tracy Venable’s seven points, as they had a tough time scoring. Barstow played solid defense the whole game, but took a while to get going offensively.

There was also the matter of foul shots. The Aztecs finished at 4-for-18, going 0-for-9 before finally converting in the second half.

“We played very well defensively, and still gave up 70 points,” said Biggs. “We worked on free throws all week, but it didn’t matter. We lost by two and left 14 points at the line.”

Still, with the second half they played, the Aztecs almost pulled it out. They began the third quarter on a 6-0 run and kept whittling down at the deficit. Several players stepped up offensively in the last 16 minutes, led by Chris Jordan, who netted 16 points after collecting just four in the first half.

“In the first half, I had Chris focus on defending (Amburgey), but I freed him up to score more in the second,” said coach Biggs. “With the defensive adjustments we made at halftime, our offense started looking a lot more fluid in the second.”

With three seconds left in the third, Venable’s jumper made it 43-43, the game’s first tie, but not the last. It was tied three times in the fourth, helped along by three-pointers from Shaquille Williams and Jonathan Joseph, who hit back-to-back treys. At the buzzer, it stood at 60-all.

The Aztecs got off to another 6-0 start in overtime, but the Bears quickly recovered. Amburgey refused to go away, knocking down two three’s, and a lay-up with 25 seconds left tied it at 68-68. Barstow didn’t convert on its possession, and with 3.1 to go, Prudhomme put his team up by two, an edge they’d preserve.

In the end, it basically came down to those missed foul shots. The Aztecs led in overall field goals, 29-28, but had one less three-pointer and left 14 points at the line, to the Bears’ six.

Jordan led the Aztecs with a double-double, 20 points and 12 rebounds, along with five assists. Cody Boston, who played solid defense and broke out offensively in the second half, scored 13 points  and took down six rebounds, while Venable had 12 points, and Williams nine points, five assists and three steals.

All in all, an impressive start.

“We had too many turnovers and have to shoot better from the line, but we did well against a good team. Big Bear gets underestimated every year, but they wind up beating all kinds of good teams,” said Biggs. “But it’s a long season, and this was a very encouraging start.”

The Aztecs will take part in the Serrano Diamondback Shootout next week.

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