Pasco guard Efrain Cardoza wasnt sure to believe when a communication error left his name out of the starting lineup during player introductions on Saturday before the Bulldogs squared off against Kennewick in Pasco.
He was like, Am I a reserve? Bulldogs coach Charlie Villanueva said after Pascos 60-47 Mid-Columbia Conference win, which tied the Bulldogs (7-11, 6-7 MCC) with Walla Walla (11-8, 6-7) for the No. 2 district seed in the upcoming 4A district tournament a week from Tuesday.
Cardoza didnt take it personally, though.
Instead, he took it out on the Lions.
The 5-foot-9 senior scored a game-high 18 points, hitting three 3-pointers and dishing out three assists to give Pasco its fourth win in the last five games and fifth in the last seven.
The Bulldogs trailed for most of the game, as Kennewick maintained a small cushion through the first three quarters. But by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, it was Pascos time to shine.
Cardoza and DeDrain Miller combined for 17 points in the final frame as the Bulldogs outscored the Lions 26-10 over the final eight minutes.
Miller finished with 17, adding a pair of steals.
This is a playing team, and were learning how to fight, Villanueva said. The only thing we did was just clean up what we were doing. We came out flat. Our rotations werent very good, and (Kennewick was) scoring off the dribble-drive handoffs.
Yunan Bugal drove the lane for a finger-roll lay-in with 2:16 left in the second quarter, giving Kennewick its biggest lead of the night at 23-15. But Pasco finished the half on an 8-0 run to tie the score at 25.
In the second half, coach told us to just play our game, Bulldogs junior guard Marqualle Brown said after scoring 10 points including five in the fourth quarter. He told us not to rush shots, but let the shots come to us.
Mitchel Mueller hit his only 3-pointer of the game to open the third quarter scoring, starting a 7-2 Lions run. Mueller, Kennewicks leading scorer, scored seven of his nine points in the third, including a pair of free throws to give the Lions a 37-34 lead after three quarters.
But it was all Pasco in the fourth.
After Ramos hit a free throw to extend Kennewicks lead to 38-34, Miller hit a circus lay-in, tossing up a one-handed shot while falling with his back to the basket. The shot went in, and he got the foul, too, converting the and-1 to bring the Bulldogs within 1 point with 7:36 left in the game.
A minute later, Julian Figueroa made a steal and fed Cardoza for a layup, giving Pasco its first lead since the first quarter at 39-38.
At practice, we see how good we can be. Its just a matter of bringing it to the court, said Brown, who hit a pair of layups inside during a 15-2 Bulldogs run to put Pasco in control 55-45 with just over a minute left. Our bench was doing a good job supporting us, yelling out screens and calling out shots.
Cardoza also hit a highlight-reel shot for a three-point play during the run, hitting the deck as his scoop shot trickled through the net with 4:33 to play.
The last 5 minutes, we just fell apart fundamentally and mentally, Ramos said. Theyve picked things up physically and started using their strength.
Pasco hosts Southridge on Friday in its final regular-season game, and Walla Walla will travel to Chiawana. A Bulldogs win and Blue Devils loss would give Pasco the No. 2 seed to the District 5 tournament.
Kennewick (4-14, 2-10) is still stuck in the MCC cellar, but is clinging to the hope it can still make the playoffs.
We know the situation, and we know what we have to do, Ramos said. Weve got to beat Southridge and force a tiebreaker.
KENNEWICK J.Wuol 4, Mueller 9, Westover 6, Devven Ramos 16, Y.Wuol, Rutledge 3, DeWitt 6, Bugal 3, Conde, Plew. Totals 19-53 7-18 47.
PASCO Brown 10, Arroyo 2, Figueroa 4, DeDrain Miller 17, Torres 2, Efrain Cardoza 18, Cobain 2, Murillo 1, Ballardo 2, Young 2, Cruz. Totals 20-59 16-27 60.
Kennewick 14 9 14 10 47
Pasco 11 12 11 26 60
Highlights 3-pointers: K 2 (Mueller, Ramos), P 4 (Cardoza 3, Miller); Rebounds: K 25 (Ramos 5), P 38 (Miguel Torres 9); Turnovers: K 17, P 15. Torres 3 assists; Miller 2 steals.