Just getting back onto the basketball court and playing an actual game seemed to be a major accomplishment for the Bret Harte High School boys’ basketball team.
Bret Harte was scheduled to take on El Dorado Jan. 5, but because of COVID-19, that game was scrapped. The Bullfrogs were then set to begin Mother Lode League play Jan. 7 against the Argonaut Mustangs, but because of COVID-19, that game was postponed. And then, the Bullfrogs were set to host Mariposa Jan. 12 and again, due to COVID-19, that game was canceled.
Bret Harte had not played a game since beating Hughson Dec. 30 in the Oakdale Tournament. During that time, a number of Bullfrog players had to take a step away from the court to deal with illness, and that also included head coach Brian Barnett.
And as Friday came around, a healthy group of Bullfrogs hoped that there would be no issues and their home game against the Summerville Bears could be played. Well, much to their delight and to the delight of the Bret Harte fanbase, the Bullfrogs got to officially begin Mother Lode League play.
As the main attraction on winter homecoming night, Bret Harte played perhaps its best game of the season in a 65-42 win over Summerville Friday night at Bob Bach Gym in Angels Camp.
“For me, it feels really good because I was out all last week and I know our guys were itching to play again,” Barnett said. “The look of devastation on their faces on Wednesday when Mariposa canceled; they were ready to go on Wednesday. That extra day, I think got them amped and they played hard tonight.”
The Bullfrogs (8-7, 1-0 MLL) began the night with aggressive play and had no problem jumping out to an early 9-3 lead. Trailing by six, the Bears ended the first quarter by outscoring the Bullfrogs 7-2. Senior Kenny Scott hit a late 3-point basket and at the end of the opening eight minutes, the Bullfrogs led 12-10.
Summerville scored first to begin the second quarter, which tied the game at 12-12. Bret Harte got some breathing room with two free throws from both senior Erik Trent and senior Vince Tiscornia, who then followed with points in the paint for Bret Harte’s sixth point in a row.
Both teams traded baskets and the Bears were once again able to cut Bret Harte’s lead to only one with 3:50 to play in the half. Up 21-20, Tiscornia went off for seven unanswered points, which included a 3-point basket to push the advantage to 28-20. Summerville scored with 15 seconds remaining in the half, but Trent capped a strong quarter with an and-1 basket and converted the free throw to give the Bullfrogs a 31-22 lead at the midway point.
“It was important to get some separation in the second quarter,” Tiscornia said about Bret Harte’s 10-2 run to close out the half. “Getting some separation and getting the big lead, we took that momentum into the third quarter and carried it the rest of the game.”
Summerville began the second half with a 3-point basket, which cut the deficit to six. Following the Summerville trey, Bret Harte outscored the Bears 15-1 the rest of the quarter. Tiscornia paved the way with six points, while Noah Adams scored three and junior Jaden Stritenberger, Trent and Bradey Tutthill all scored two points.
Tiscornia could see that limiting the Bears to only four points gave his squad all the momentum and took much of the fight away from Summerville.
“Going on offense and getting points and then going back on defense and playing our hearts out, I really feel that it got into our opponents’ head, and it shut them down,” Tiscornia said. “We had all the momentum.”
Bret Harte’s strong third quarter also brought a smile to Barnett’s face. For much of his tenure as head coach, the Bullfrogs have played well for three quarters. Unfortunately, there seems to be one quarter in nearly every game that hurts Bret Harte on the scoreboard and that didn’t happen against Summerville.
“We didn’t have that situation where we were in a lull,” Barnett said. “You could tell that the guys were ready to play, and they all went in there and had some good minutes.”
Leading 46-26 to begin the fourth quarter, the Bret Harte fans continued to show excitement, especially when sophomore Walker Maurer drained a 3-point basket right in front of the loud student section. Trent also made a shot from downtown and senior Carston Weidmann added the final exclamation point with two baskets from behind the arc to put the game on ice.
Bret Harte is not known for its 3-point shooting, and yet finished the night with six baskets from 3-point land.
“We are starting to jell, and we are understanding things more,” Barnett said. “We are keeping it simple, but we are also doing the right things.”
Tiscornia and Trent each had a monster night, as both players finished with 19 points; Weidmann scored seven; Maurer and Adams scored five; Scott and Tutthill scored three; while Jonah Melton and Stritenberger each had two points in the win.
“I was happy to be back out there with all my friends and all my teammates,” Tiscornia said. “I thought we played hard. The first half was a little rough, but we picked it up in the second half and I’m really proud of all our guys. I hope this carries us through the rest of the season.”