It was a game of runs — with one double digit lead getting erased and both Pioneer Valley and Lompoc boys basketball teams exchanging leads late.

But Jeffrey Ray’s final heave from the 3-point line fell short, resulting in the Pioneer Valley Panthers hanging on for the 57-54 win on Wednesday afternoon in the Santa Maria Holiday Hoops Tournament at Santa Maria High.

Pioneer Valley (7-3) took a 19-6 lead into the second quarter by attacking the Braves (1-8) inside the paint with layups from D.J. Martinez — who scored the first six points for the Panthers. However, Lompoc fired back with a long run of its own, turning to a half court pressure defense and outscoring the Panthers 15-0 to take the 21-19 lead deep into the second quarter.

The Panthers struggled with getting the basketball inside the hoop for most of the second half, going 5:51 without netting a single point. But, PVHS ended the second by going on a 6-2 run, cutting the Brave lead to 25-23 at halftime.

The game saw ball handling miscues and turnovers on both sides, prompting Panthers head coach Greg Lanthier to become blunt about his team’s performance.

“We’re either going to get better or get buried in the PAC-8,” Lanthier said following his team’s win. “We have as much talent as any team in the PAC-8. But it just seems like with the PAC-8 teams, basketball is more important to them than to us. If it’s not important to us, then we aren’t going to be good at it.

“They (Lompoc) did a very good job. We are not very good right now. We have some skills but we don’t have very much toughness. We don’t handle the ball very well and we turned it over a lot.”

The final 29.5 seconds saw the back-and-forth ensue even more. Lompoc’s Ray hit a basket inside that gave LHS a 54-52 lead. But then, Jayden Jones drew contact and got his basket through the hoop, scoring the next three points including the extra free throw attempt and putting the Panthers up for good at 55-54.

Despite the loss, LHS first-year head coach Paul Terrones said he has seen signs of progression from his group.

“They’ve progressed a lot,” Terrones said. “We just didn’t have the time at the beginning of the year to really gel because we jumped right in with playing those non-league games. I think that break (the three week layover from the Thomas Fire) came at a good time. But it got to the point where we were itching to play. I was proud of their effort. We just came one shot short.”

Taylor Burns led the Panthers with 13 points. Sal Villa added nine points while Martinez tacked on seven for PVHS. On Lompoc’s side, Ryan Morgan led the scoring charge with a game-high 21 points. Ray added 13 points while Andrew Villa added 12.

Both teams will now play two games on Thursday. Pioneer Valley starts the tournament with a 9:30 a.m. contest against Hanford Sierra Pacific, then returns to SMHS to face Morro Bay at 3:30 p.m. The Braves will take on Morro Bay in the 11 a.m. contest before coming back at 5 p.m. to take on Sierra Pacific. 

Harold Olivera Tournament

Clovis 38, Cabrillo 34 

The Conquistadores nearly pulled the upset against a Clovis High team that not only finished as the CIF Central Section Division I runner-up one year ago, but ended the season as a CIF state playoff qualifier in girls basketball. 

The game played at Righetti High saw CHS's Erin Jenkins score 17 points to lead CHS. No other Cabrillo player, though, reached double figures in scoring. 

Alexa McCune finished second on the team with seven points. Defensively, Jesse Jenkins led CHS in blocks with three. 

Righetti 74, Lompoc 49

Zane Scheckherd dropped 33 points on the Braves at the Olivera Tournament on Thursday to lead the Warriors. 

The Warriors led 44-27 at halftime and pulled away from a defensive-minded Braves team, as Lompoc collected 10 team blocks. 

Mercedes Arredondo finished with 10 points for RHS. Danielle Morgan led Lompoc with 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Bella Robles finished with seven points with seven rebounds.