The Summerville Bear boys' basketball team clinched complete ownership of the 2012-13 Mother Lode League title Tuesday night after defeating the Calaveras Redskins 46-41 in Tuolumne.
Calaveras had the upper hand early in the game, outscoring the Bears 12-8 in the first quarter. But Summerville came back in the second to take a narrow 17-15 lead at the break.
"They came out ready to play and we were a little sluggish," said Summerville head coach Ben Watson. "(Redskins head coach) Kraig Clifton did a great job of getting them ready to play. He's just a really good coach and they just played their butts off.
"I thought they out-hustled us, especially in the first half. They did some good things on defense and were able to hit some 3-pointers on offense and that really hurt us. Like I said, their kids' effort was outstanding. We were very fortunate to kind of eek things out. We were able to get to the free-throw line more and hit them down the stretch, which is important in a really close game."
In the fourth quarter alone, Summerville scored 17 points, nine of which came off free throws. Bear co-captain Jesse Roberson hit four free throws in the fourth on his way to scoring 12 points on the night.
"Colton Ebbers stepped up and got 12 points for us," Watson said. "We've been talking about how he's gotta be a difference maker for us and give us some energy off the bench heading down the stretch and into the playoffs."
With the Redskins trailing by only one-point late in the final period, Bear co-captain Rosendo Amaya-Wood was fouled grabbing an offensive rebound and cooly sank both free throws.
Clifton said the game ultimately came down to the Redskins' missed opportunities from the charity stripe.
"We were 2-for-9 from the free-throw line and they were 13-for-17, there's your ball game right there," said Clifton.
Clifton said his Redskins fought hard against a physically bigger opponent and "just fell short barely."
"TJ Crenshaw came in off the bench and did a very good job," Clifton said. "He's had limited time this season so we gave him a shot tonight and he did very good. He had two 3s in the game and played fearless, which is what we were hoping for."
For the Redskins, Crenshaw had seven points while Mike Seawell scored a game-high 13. Calaveras was outrebounded by Summerville 32-18.
Calaveras (8-16, 4-9 MLL) will next prepare to face longtime rivals Bret Harte in Angels Camp on Friday. Bret Harte head coach Jeff Eltringham has said Clifton and others from Calaveras have reached out to show their support as the school deals with the untimely deaths of two students apparently killed by their father Saturday in a suspected murder-suicide.
"It's probably gonna be a hard-fought and emotional game," said Clifton. "Both teams will show up to play hard as always."
Meanwhile, Summerville (22-3, 13-0 MLL) can rest easy knowing it is now the sole MLL champion of the 2012-13 season. However, the Bears are hoping to go perfect in league. They travel to Linden on Friday and then close out the regular season Tuesday in Amador.
"We've handled Linden twice already but it's just a tough chore to beat somebody three times," said Watson. "I think it will be a war again."