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California still in playoff race

Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
California's Tray Matthews (10) and Frazier's Mark Dillon (23) fight for the ball in the 1st quarter at California on Wednesday, Febuary 5, 2014.

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By Donnie Tasser
Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, 12:36 a.m.

Frazier's road woes continued Wednesday at California, this time costing the Commodores a chance to get a piece of the Section 5 AA title.

The Trojans' defensive-minded 48-38 victory dropped Frazier into a tie for second place in the section with Charleroi at 9-3 (13-6 overall), while California improves to 7-5 (9-11) and remains very much alive in the playoff race.

“Big win, big win,” California coach Bruno Pappasergi said. “It was a total team effort. Rebounding-wise, that's how we got beat the first time we played them and tonight was much improved. Offensively, we really executed even though it looked otherwise at times. We did the little things we needed to.

“We kept switching defenses all night and the kids were so focused. They never missed a switch and they stayed on point all night. We probably switched through four or five defenses and they were on point each time.”

Frazier is 4-6 on the road and averages just 45.6 points per game, compared to an 8-0 mark at home, where the Commodores average 61.6 points per game.

“We've been struggling on the road,” Frazier coach Ed Keebler said. “We've been putting up some points at home, but on the road we have just been having trouble putting the ball in the hoop. We had plenty of attempts; the attempts were there tonight. Were they all perfect? No, but we had a lot of good attempts and the ball just wouldn't go in. The same thing happened to us last week against Jefferson-Morgan.”

California was strong defensively, especially in the first half where the Trojans held Frazier to 15 points, forced 14 turnovers and outrebounded the Commodores 14-12.

“We talked about holding their penetration down,” Pappasergi said. “We didn't want to let them penetrate the middle so they can kick the ball out; that's where they are most effective. We laid back in our 3-2 defense and didn't let them penetrate.

“Our guards were really strong on top. Kass Taylor, Austin Wingo and all of the guards for that matter, everybody just did a heck of a job rebounding.”

Frazier began to heat up briefly in the third quarter when Alvin Ross made two 3-pointers to help the Commodores out score California, 12-11. Ross scored eight of his team-high 12 points in the third, while Demetri Clements did his best to keep California in the lead, going for nine of his 13 points in the quarter.

Frazier cut the lead to seven with a minute to play after Roger Cline drove the lane for a layup, stole the inbounds pass and scored another layup, but a quick three-point play by Malik Jackson snuffed out the comeback attempt.

Cline finished with 10 points, while Jackson had five and a team-high seven rebounds. Josh Luko joined Clements in double digits with a game-high 16 points, including five in the final frame.

“Our kids were focused from the first tip,” Pappasergi said. “That's what we have to do. We came out strong and continued to play strong the whole game. We got to every loose ball. When we play that physical and that emotional, we are really hard to beat.”

Frazier will need to recover quickly if it hopes to clinch second place in the section.

“Tonight was a tough one,” Keebler said. “We have Charleroi tomorrow and Brownsville on Friday so we can't afford a letdown. We're fighting for second place now.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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