Fremont 70, Pioneer 69By Dave Keefer
The Fremont Pathfinders rallied from a double-digit deficit in the 4th quarter to beat the Pioneer Titans, 70-69, in pool play at the Huntington Park Winter Tournament on Thursday. Frank Betton's free throw with 2 seconds on the clock was the 9th and final lead change in the last 4:15, as Fremont sealed the victory.
It was a game of momentum changes but after Pioneer had completed a 16-2 run to lead 58-48 with about 6 minutes left in the game, it appeared the Titans were in the driver's seat. But true to their school mascot's namesake, the "Pathfinders" found a way to grab the momentum and get back in the game. Once they erased the deficit, it was anybody's ballgame and the final minutes were as entertaining as any anywhere in the new year.
Early on, Fremont had the momentum while building a 7-0 lead, then finishing the 1st quarter with a 10-2 run to lead 17-7 after two late three-pointers from Kerry "Soul" Sessions and Jesse Taylor (just before the buzzer). A fastbreak layup by Cordell Ricks early in the 2nd quarter gave Fremont its largest lead of the game, 22-8.
Pioneer got a three from Ray Flores to make it 22-11 but struggled to keep up, as Fremont's lead stayed at 11 points for a while thanks to a three from Myles McLin (made it 28-17) and a feed from McLin to Markell Brown that made it 30-19. But, helped by a buzzer-beating putback by Flores, Pioneer scored the last 5 points of the half to trail 30-24 at the break.
A three-pointer by Sessions got Fremont's lead back up to nine, 35-26. Then Pioneer got hot and went on an 11-0 run to lead, 37-35, at the 4:25 mark. The run included threes by Reggie Garcia and Courtney Ramon, and a run-capping three-point play by Ramon. Fremont tied it but Kyle Henderson nailed a three-pointer for Pioneer and they led 40-37.
Fremont responded with 6 straight points to lead, 43-40, and extended the lead to 46-42 after a trey from Taylor. Then Pioneer grabbed the momentum and went ahead 47-46 on a three-point play by Josh Vasquez as the 3rd quarter ended. The Titan momentum took them on a 13-0 run that ended with a total run of 16-2 and a 58-48 lead. Henderson hit two consecutive 3-pointers in the run (he totaled 4 threes in the game). Flores capped the run with a three of his own.
That set the stage for a dramatic turnaround by Fremont, as they scored a pile of points in a flash. They racked up 12 straight points in about 2 minutes and led 60-58 with 4:15 left in the game. The blitz was helped by some great defensive pressure that caused some turnovers. It all was started by a drive from Betton and included a beautiful scoring pass from Taylor to Betton (58-54), a three from Sessions, and a go-ahead three-point play by Betton.
Ramon abruptly ended the run by taking the inbounds pass and going coast to coast for a layup and three-point play to give the lead back to Pioneer, 61-60, at the 4:06 mark. From there the fans in the stands were treated to quite a battle before the outcome was finally determined. Neither team scored consecutive baskets the rest of the way, as the lead changed hands 8 more times.
With 35 seconds left in the game, Ramon gave Pioneer its last lead, 69-67, with a three-pointer. Then Betton drove in for a score to tie it at 69-69 with 11 seconds to go. Pioneer had a chance for the last shot but they never got it. Fremont knocked the ball loose from Ramon and as the clock ticked down, Betton got possession and drove for the bucket. A wild scrum resulted and Pioneer was called for a foul as the clock showed :00.
After a consultation by the officials and the time-keeper, two seconds were added to the clock and Betton went to the line for two free throws. He missed the first and the tension level went up another notch in the gym. But he calmly swished the second free throw and Pioneer could only get off a wild heave that had no chance as the final buzzer sounded.
Betton and Sessions came up big for Fremont, scoring 19 and 16 points respectively, while Taylor, McLin, and Brown all added 8 points each. Betton had 12 of his points in the 4th quarter. Ramon led Pioneer with his game high 22 points and got help from Henderson's 12 (on four 3's) and 10 from Flores.
Score by Quarters:
Fremont---17-13-16-24 = 70
Pioneer----07-17-23-22 = 69
Fremont (70): 2-Marquis McKinzy 2, 3-Jesse Taylor 8, 4-Cordell Ricks 2, 5-Javon McClenton 3, 20-Frank Betton 19, 21-Kerry "Soul" Sessions 16, 24-Myles McLin 8, 32-Markell Brown 8, 33- Kevin Lopez 4.
Pioneer (69): 4-Luis Rangel 2, 5-Reggie Garcia 3, 10-Joshua Valdez 9, 12-Ray Flores 10, 23-Kyle Henderson 12, 24-Miguel Mena 3, 31-Jonathan Mayorga 8, 32-Courtney Ramon 22.
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