By the time the San Benito High boys basketball team made its run, it was too little, too late. A furious fourth quarter surge was undone by inconsistent play in the first three, resulting in a 66-62 loss to host Evergreen Valley on Friday night in a Central Coast Section Division I playoff opener.
The Haybalers finished 7-7 and were making their first appearance in the postseason since the 2013-2014 season. After trailing by as many as 15 points, San Benito cut its deficit to one, 63-62, on Jayden Freidt’s 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining. Balers coach Bo Buller then signaled for a timeout, but after a long discussion by the referees, they determined San Benito was out of timeouts, which resulted in a technical foul.
Evergreen hit the ensuing two free throws to ice the outcome. Apparently, the San Benito scorekeeper and the Evergreen scorekeeper’s books didn’t match, but the referees went with the home book since it is considered the official one. Buller thought he had a timeout left because he always marks it on a piece of paper in his pocket.
“Just a bummer to have it decided that way,” Buller said in a text message to the Free Lance. “The truth is we played our least consistent game since maybe week 1. Great at points then really sloppy and not cohesive at other points. We will really work at getting better in the defensive end in the offseason. (We) have a lot of potential coming back with a full normal season next year.”
Indeed, the Balers will return the prolific scoring combo of Freidt (21 points) and Tyler Pacheco, who finished with 14 points. They’ll also have guards Dominic Price and Bryant Vasquez along with post Jaiden Prado coming back, which should make them a competitive squad. San Benito allowed 10 layups through the first three quarters, allowing the Cougars to get out to a 48-36 lead.
Evergreen Valley hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth and equal its largest lead of the game. That’s when San Benito finally started to get it going. A Pacheco putback capped a 19-6 run, cutting Evergreen’s lead to 57-55 with 2:20 left. The Cougars misfired on a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, but got the offensive rebound and scored. Had San Benito secured the rebound, it would’ve had the opportunity to tie or take the lead.
Chase Freeman, who scored 14 points, connected on a drive with 24.5 seconds to go. San Benito fouled Evergreen on the next possession, but not before the Cougars took 14 seconds off the clock. In the double bonus, Evergreen made the two free throws before Freidt’s 3-pointer and ensuing timeout that resulted in a technical foul. Although it didn’t force a ton of turnovers off its full-court press, the Balers were successful in making Evergreen take a while to get into its offensive sets.
The only problem? They didn’t close out on the Cougars’ Raghava Bandla, who hit four 3-pointers in the second half alone. But, as Buller said, improved defense will be a priority in the off-season.
“We will be here in CCS (again) and competing for league titles from here on out,” Buller said. “Evergreen was 20-4 last year so the program is solid; we will build that over time.”
This marked the final game for Freeman, who posted another solid year. Thomas Breen, another senior stalwart, was unavailable due to injury.