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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
CITY OF INDUSTRY-The Artesia High boys basketball team found itself down by six points just 10 seconds into the second half. But the passing of junior Rian Hughing and the sharp shooting of freshman sensation Heder Gladden in the third quarter gave the Pioneers a good shot of escaping Workman High with a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV-AA first round victory.
However, a costly turnover with four seconds left in the game cost the Pioneers a chance of attempting a game-winning shot and the Lobos held on for a 50-48 victory this past Wednesday night. Artesia, an at-large representative from the Suburban League, concludes its season at 10-17.
“We came out and played well and executed,” said Artesia head coach Ray Walker of the third quarter. “We didn’t at the end of the game; the fourth quarter was ugly. But it was a good third quarter.”
Both teams traded the lead six times in the first quarter until the Lobos went on a 6-2 run over the final 1:58 to take a 14-11 lead heading into the second quarter. Artesia regained the lead, 18-17, with 1:48 remaining in the half on a Hughing steal and basket and still had a one-point lead at 21-20 after junior Zak Jannane drained his third perimeter shot of the half. But Workman scored five quick points in the final 28 seconds and the first basket of the second half to hold its biggest advantage of the contest.
That’s when Gladden, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season, took over. He hit back to back three-pointers in a span of 75 seconds to tie the game at 27-27. Later in the stanza, he hit two more three-pointers, the last giving Artesia a 35-32 lead with 2:11 left in the third quarter. Gladden scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter while Hughing had four points and four assists in the quarter as well.
“Zak played well early and Heder played well later,” Walker said. “Heder has been almost a consistent player. So even though he’s a freshman, he played really well.”
After scoring 21 points in the first half, the Pioneers got that exact total in the third quarter alone and had a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter. But the Lobos got a basket from Andres Yanez and consecutive two-pointers from Leonardo Castro early in the final stanza to cut Artesia’s lead to a point. After Walker called a timeout, Gladden drained yet another downtown shot to make it a 45-41 contest with 5:07 left to play.
But the Pioneers would miss on their next four shots from the field and wouldn’t score until junior Kody Pitts hit the team’s 10th three-pointer of the game with 49.5 seconds left, making it 49-48 in favor of Workman. Artesia would get the ball with 19.5 seconds left and after a timeout, ran what it hoped would be a game-winning play. But the team’s fourth turnover of the quarter ended any hopes of that final shot. After Oliver Lopez hit one of two free throws for the final point with two-tenths of a second left to play, a desperation shot from senior Martin Villeses went for naught.
“We went through different options depending on what they were going to run defensively because they’ve switched things up,” Walker said. “So we wanted to a clear out for Heder but…we just turned it over. We didn’t execute. He was supposed to get the ball back and we never got the ball back.”
Jannane had a dozen points while Hughing came off the bench to score all eight points from non-starters. Pitts chipped in with seven points and eight rebounds as the Pioneers had 11 turnovers, seven coming in the first half and the other four in the fourth quarter.
“We turned the ball over,” Walker said. “We’re pretty inexperienced and we turned the ball over. They pressured a little more and we couldn’t handle the pressure.
“We played better in the third quarter,” he continued. “We were tougher with the ball and we got lackadaisical a little bit and we got the lead. We’ve had issued this year when we get a lead. We normally don’t play as well after that.”
The immediate future looks good for the Pioneers, who graduate three seniors and had five juniors on this season’s team, plus Gladden.
“It was a long year; a tough year,” Walker said. “We’re young and inexperienced. But we have most of our players coming back. Everybody who started today; the first six or seven players are returning. So we’re looking forward to the future. This was very disappointing though. We thought we could have won this game.”
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