Tuesday night was a night that the Calaveras High School boys’ basketball team has needed for a while. Calaveras had yet to have a statement win in Mother Lode League play and fresh off a 67-44 trouncing to Sonora, a big night was needed.
Of Calaveras’ three league losses, one came courtesy of Amador, who beat Calaveras 67-66 Jan. 21 in Sutter Creek. With a short bench, Calaveras returned the favor and knocked off Amador 60-53 Tuesday night at Mike Flock Gym in San Andreas.
“This was our overall best team effort,” Calaveras head coach Kraig Clifton said. “Everyone contributed and it puts us in a nice spot.”
With changes made to Calaveras’ roster and starting guard Jay Clifton not playing due to an injury, Kraig Clifton needed all eight of his players to rise to the occasion and he was not disappointed.
“Everyone did something good tonight,” Clifton said. “I was in a position where I could trust all eight guys who were suited up.”
There was not much scoring in the opening eight minutes as both teams entered the second quarter with just six points to their names. Amador started to get things going offensively and with 3:45 to play in the half, led 16-10. Down by six, senior Colton Buckholz drained a 3-point basket and Tim Van Damme followed with points in the paint to cut the deficit to one.
Amador regrouped and with only a few seconds remaining in the second quarter, led 25-18, but junior AJ Cardon hit a shot from downtown at the buzzer and Calaveras went into the locker room down by just four.
Calaveras ended up taking the lead from Amador midway through the third quarter, following baskets from senior Griffin Manning and Buckholz. Senior Kaven Orlandi made back-to-back shots in the paint and Van Damme added two points, but heading into the fourth quarter, Calaveras trailed 38-35.
With 5:30 to play in the game, Calaveras was behind 46-42 after Orlandi made a free throw. But the momentum of the night changed to Calaveras’ side following a technical foul called on Amador. Junior Isaiah Williams, who was already scheduled to shoot two free throws, made three of four from the charity stripe to bring Calaveras to within one.
“I think they were uncomfortable the entire game,” Clifton said in regards to the momentum swing following the technical. “We kept the score down and kept their possessions down. They didn’t like it and then when that happened (the technical), they just lost their lid a little bit and it was a changer for us.”
After the Williams’ free throws, Calaveras sophomore Jonathan Savage completed an and-1 play to put his team up 48-46. With 2:15 to play, Calaveras had a slim 52-51 lead, but Cardon hit a clutch 3-point basket, followed by a bucket from Buckholz and another field goal from Cardon to put the game away. Calaveras outscored Amador 25-15 in the final eight minutes.
“That fourth quarter was a really big deal for us,” Orlandi said. “A lot of it was our defense. We needed to make sure we got stops on defense and quite frankly, we did just that and our offense started flowing.”
Cardon led Calaveras with 18 points; Buckholz had 14 points and made four 3-point baskets; Van Damme finished with 10 points; Orlandi had eight points; Savage scored five points; Williams had three points; and Manning finished the night with two points.
“Every Amador game seems to be a close one,” Orlandi said. “Coach really prepared us for this one and we came out playing like a team and left with the win.”
Calaveras (17-6, 4-3 MLL) has a huge game coming on Friday. With Argonaut losing to Sonora and Amador falling to Calaveras on Tuesday night, there is now a three-way tie for second place in the Mother Lode League standings. Calaveras will take on Argonaut at 7:30 p.m., Friday night in Jackson.
“Hopefully we can carry over what happened tonight,” Clifton said. “We need the same effort and contributions from our bench. It’s always a fun place to play and it’s loud and chaotic. If we can keep our composure, play tough and play smart, then we’ve got a chance.”