December 2, 2017. Morro Bay, CA. – At the Harding Invitational Tournament, only Escondido (3-0) and Central (3-0) were able to defeat all of their opponents to reach this point – The Championship. Central had won their previous games by an average of 31 points, while Escondido averaged +10. Central was #37th in all-state pre-season rankings, a fact Coach Baldwin wisely chose not to mention to his players until after the game.
Both teams came out firing. Barber put Escondido’s first 5 points on the board, while Hutchinson hit all 3 of his 3-pointers. Jones and Sauls contributed points as well, for a team total of 19 points in the period. On Central’s side, Wilson and Bartley each had 10 points, and a team total of 26. Escondido had fewer turnovers than Central, but Central shot 83% from the field and captured 8 of the 9 rebounds. This team from Fresno was playing at a higher level than Escondido’s previous three opponents.
The 2nd quarter was similar to the first for Central, but for Escondido only Hutchinson was able to complete any field goals. The Cougars' rebounding improved, yet rebounding wouldn’t be enough to keep period two from being a 23-7 run for Central. Escondido found itself in a 49-26 deficit at the half.
Central quickly made it a 30-point spread early in the third period with 3 baskets on their first four possessions. Then Escondido began chipping away at the Grizzlies lead. Central’s fast, physical play started to work in Escondido’s favor as Central sent the Cougars to the foul line 5 times for 8 points, including 2 for a technical. In contrast, the Grizzlies had no free throws in the period. Escondido completed the quarter with a 12-2 run. With 6 points from Landry in the period, and additional contributions from Barber, Duben, Green, Jones, Carroll and Walker, Escondido ended the quarter with a smaller deficit than at the half.
Even though Green dropped in 6 points with help from back-to-back assists by Duben, neither team gained much ground in the final period and Escondido took their first loss of the season, 54-76. They can walk away knowing that apart from the 2nd quarter, each of them held their own against a highly-ranked team and even bested them in the 2nd half by a point.by Rick Jones