Preps

Thursday, Feb 07 2013 10:45 PM

Mustang 'D' locks down Pats

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Stockdale's Keith McCants slips through two Liberty players for the basket at the Mustang gym. Liberty's Dalton Cunicelli is at left.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Liberty's Dalton Cunicelli holds his position while Keith McCants of Stockdale drives to the basket.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Eyes on the prize! Christian Bayne, right, of Stockdale and Liberty's Dalton Cunicelli chase down a loose ball.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

The Stockdale student section let out a cheer when Liberty senior Jake Martin hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter Thursday, a sarcastic thing that came only because the Patriots hadn't scored on anything but free throws for nearly an hour.

But the Mustangs' crowd could afford to be generous: The home team hadn't given up a field goal for more than 15 minutes of game action and thoroughly dominated Liberty, 63-30.

"This is as good as I remember us playing, and I don't just mean this year," fourth-year Stockdale coach Oliver Brown said. "It's hard to imagine a team we've had since I've been here that played that hard and well."

The highlight was The Drought, a Liberty dry spell that began when Martin scored on a drive with 18 seconds left in the first quarter and didn't end until he canned the trey with 46 seconds left in the third.

In between, the Mustangs (18-4, 6-2 SWYL) out-scored the Patriots (15-9, 4-4) 31-8, with all eight Liberty points coming from the free throw line.

"We're really proud, because our team is about defense," senior Keith McCants said. "We just had that state of mind, that we weren't going to lose this game."

McCants and Chris Ross each scored 11 points to lead a balanced Stockdale attack: Christian Bayne had 10, Alex Williams 9 and Robbie Purdy 8.

"We share the ball," McCants said. "One player might not be making his shots, but we have other weapons."

It's worth noting two of Liberty's top players, guard Jake Martin and forward Brian Nunn, played through pinched nerves in their back. Martin said after the game that his back tightened significantly in the break between the first and second quarters.

A third Patriots starter, Kyle Ferreira, sustained a leg injury in the second quarter and scored only 2 points.

"But the bigger component is that we lack consistency," said Patriots coach A.J. Shearon, whose team has wins against section powers Fresno-Edison and Clovis North. "Some nights we look very good, and some nights we look really bad, like tonight. I don't know if it's a pace thing, a matchup thing or what, but we needed that consistency to compete in this league."

Dalton Cunicelli led Liberty with 11 points, and Martin scored 9.

Even with its field-goal drought nearly six minutes old, Liberty was within 23-18 in the second quarter when Stockdale took off. Williams was fouled while making a 3-pointer and completed the four-point play, and McCants and Bayne each hit jumpers before half to make the lead 31-19. Stockdale then scored the first 10 points of the second half to turn an important Division I game into a rout.

"(Liberty) is as good a shooting team as there is in our league, so I was really surprised we held them to 19 for so long," Brown said. "But the kids did what we wanted them to do."

Stockdale, which also posted a 30-point win against Centennial on Tuesday, ends its regular season next week with games against Frontier and Bakersfield. Win those, and the Mustangs will be one hot team in the playoffs.

"We're ready," Brown said. "We're ready for Tuesday, we're ready for (next) Thursday, and then we'll see what happens. But we're excited."

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