Santa Maria's boys basketball team finally got to play another game, and the Saints garnered a come-from-behind win in their own fundraiser to show for it.
After seeing Oxnard Channel Islands score the first 11 points, and trailing most of the way, the Saints out-scored the Blue Raiders 12-1 over the last 3:51 and came away with a 62-58 win at Santa Maria's Wilson Gym Tuesday night.
The Saints moved to 3-1. The Blue Raiders are 0-3.
Joey Nevarez scored five of his game-high 24 points for the Saints in the last 1:22. The Saints kept the ball alive after a missed Santa Maria shot, and Nevarez scored on a 17-footer to put the Saints ahead for good at 59-58. He nailed a 3-point shot with 19.8 seconds to play for the final points.
The Saints won in large part because they went 12-for-15 from the foul line and the Blue Raiders went 8-for-16. Santa Maria made all of its last six free throws. Channel Islands also missed a few key layups.
The game was part of a fundraiser Santa Maria coach Dave Yamate, with the go-ahead from Santa Maria athletic director Brian Wallace, put together last week.
Yamate put the fundraiser together for the dual purpose of helping some teams, including his own, get some games in after the Thomas fire wiped out several scheduled tournament games in south Santa Barbara County and Ventura County and to aid victims of the fire.
The Thomas fire has devastated parts of south Santa Barbara County. Yamate said all funds from the fundraiser are designated to go to the Red Cross fire fund of Carpinteria.
All-Area football MVP Blake Truhitte scored 15 points for the Saints and created some havoc on defense as well. Clark Kringel grabbed some key offensive rebounds for Santa Maria. Kobe Medina added 10 points.
Gabe Sandoval led the Blue Raiders with 16 points. Malik Patton added 13. Sandoval scored 12 of his team high 16 points in the first half and helped the Blue Raiders to their 27-10 lead. The Saints rallied, and the teams were tied at 32 at halftime.
The Saints hadn't played since Dec. 2 and, "You could definitely see the rust," Yamate said. "This was the first game for our football guys." Big Bear beat Santa Maria 37-23 Dec. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 12 championship game.
"Both teams started slow." Yamate chuckled. "Actually, they jumped on us."
The Blue Raiders led 27-10 at one point in the second quarter.
Three-point shooting is most of the life blood of the Santa Maria offense, and the Saints' outside shooters gradually warmed up. However, Santa Maria needed a big finish to win.
Channel Islands coach Eddie Ramos said his team's first nine games were cancelled because of the fire.
"It's been hard getting quality game time when the (school) district tells us we can't practice because the air is too bad," said Ramos.
"But we'll get there. The fires (in our area) are over. No excuses."
Santa Maria's streaky shooters hit enough 3s, nine, to help their team win. The Saints also forced some timely turnovers late, including on the Blue Raiders' inbounds pass after Nevarez scored the winning basket at the 1:22 mark of the fourth.
"We started out kind of flat, but then we picked it up," said Nevarez.
"It had been awhile since we'd played a game, and we were getting a little antsy. When we played someone other than ourselves, the rust showed but it gradually wore off."
Nevarez's shot was off most of the game, but he connected at the most critical times.
As the Saints go through their Los Padres League campaign, "Our shooting is going to have to get better, and our defensive intensity is going to have to pick up," said Yamate.
"But I was happy with the way our guys battled. It was important to get some games in before our holiday tournament," which starts Dec. 26.
"Channel Islands is in our playoff division, so we might be seeing them again," said Yamate. The Saints qualified for the playoffs last year.
Pioneer Valley 60, Dos Pueblos 55
Steven Fuerte hit a big 3-pointer to help Pioneer Valley take the game to overtime, and the Panthers out-scored the Chargers 11-6 in the extra period to get the non-league win at Pioneer Valley.
The Panthers improved to 6-3.
Taylor Burns led the Panthers with 17 points. Jaden Jones put in 16 points and Matt Garcia added 12.
BAKERSFIELD — Orcutt Academy made it a clean sweep of its three weekend games at the annual Garces Tournament in Bakersfield.
The Spartans opened the tournament Friday with an 8-0 shutout over Desert Christian.
They followed that up with a 10-2 victory over Fresno Christian Saturday morning and an 11-0 shutout over Wonderful Prep in Saturday afternoon’s Silver Division championship game.
The Spartans are off until January when they begin Los Padres League play on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, when the host Santa Maria at the Rice Ranch field.