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Photo by Chelsea Buchanan
The Aztecs' Tracy Venable is guarded by Victor Valley's Malik Cotton in Friday night's game.

Tough loss for Aztec hoopsters

BARSTOW • The Aztecs came up just short of getting to .500.

The Barstow boys basketball team hosted Victor Valley for a fast-paced, exciting game on Friday night. The Aztecs jumped out to an early lead and maintained at least a slight edge until the final minutes. That’s when the Jackrabbits parlayed some nasty work off the boards and clutch foul shooting into a tight, 56-54, victory.

The two teams were evenly-matched and even though the Aztecs were out in front most of the way, it was clearly anyone’s game. When the final buzzer sounded, Valley had just enough to put them over the top.

“Both teams were pretty solid,” said Aztecs coach Preston Biggs. “In the fourth, we had too many turnovers, and they killed us with offensive rebounding.”

The defense the Aztecs displayed in the first quarter seemed to catch the opposition by surprise. Barstow put the pressure on the Jackrabbits from the opening tip, and began the match on a 9-0 run. The visitors didn’t knock down a field goal until the 4:24 mark.

“Both teams did well on defense the whole way,” said Biggs. “I don’t think they were ready for our defense in the beginning, but they made the adjustment, and it was back-and-forth from there.”

The Aztecs also were hot on offense in the first, sparked by Cody Boston’s eight points from the paint. Chris Jordan also got off to a fast start, with seven points, and Anthony Addison’s 3-pointer at the buzzer put the home team on top, 21-15, going into the second.

The Jackrabbits began to make those adjustments near the end of the first. After being held scoreless for almost four minutes, Valley managed to collect 15 points quickly, thanks in large measure to Devondre Jackson. Jackson didn’t start, but entered the game a few minutes in, and had an immediate impact, scoring nine points in a short time.

That six-point Aztecs lead was down to four by halftime, as the two teams stayed virtually even. Barstow gained a bit of ground in the third, scoring 15 points to Valley’s 14. The home team had opened up a nine-point edge at the midway point, the biggest lead since the first quarter.

In the end, it came down to rebounds and foul shots.

“Down the stretch, their offensive rebounding got us,” said coach Biggs. “And they had 15 free throw attempts in the fourth.”

Of those 15, seven were good, but it was enough. Barstow made its last stand with 1:21 left, as Anglish Williams grabbed a steal and converted on the fast break, turning a one-point lead into three. But then the Valley rebounds and trips to the line came into play. Raymond Clark was particularly damaging, going 5-for-6 from the stripe in the fourth. Jackson was only 2-for-7, but hit those two with 22 seconds to go; the first tied the game at 54, the second gave the Jackrabbits a lead they’d hold onto.

Cody Boston was the Aztecs’ high-scorer with 16 points, to which he added six rebounds and five blocks. Jordan had 15 points, including a pair of treys, and Williams just missed a double-double, with 10 points, nine boards and six steals.

In all, an exciting, well-played loss for Barstow.

“Our second half wasn’t as good as the first, but we played hard the whole game,” said Biggs.

The Aztecs will be on the road for their next five games, beginning with Sultana on Wednesday.

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