PASCO -- There's a lot that can be said about young players on a basketball team.
Often, it's a sign of weakness and inexperience. But when they come loaded with heart, that's a different story.
The Pasco boys completed a comeback for the ages Friday night in the CBBN 3A league opener, beating Kennewick 49-48 in front of an excited home crowd after trailing by as much as 21 points midway through the second quarter.
With the Bulldogs trailing 48-47 with five seconds remaining, Julian Figueroa outfoxed three Kennewick players for an offensive rebound and scored the putback, giving coach Charlie Villanueva his first coaching win at Pasco and sending the Bulldogs' sideline into a frenzied celebration.
"I just hustled and never gave up," said Figueroa, a sophomore who finished with six points. But when the time came, he was one of several underclassmen who set the tone for the Pasco win -- its first of the season after an 0-4 start. Kennewick fell to 1-4.
Freshman guard Brandon Mendoza scored six points in the game, but all came in the final 1:15, including four clutch free throws with the pressure on.
"He never even changed his expression," Villanueva said.
With 27 seconds left, Zach Burrell drilled what looked like the go-ahead 3-pointer from the left wing, but Villanueva had called time out just before the shot.
"He was all juiced up, saying, 'Awww (coach) Vee, man,' " Villanueva said.
The shot didn't count, but his teammates picked up the slack, finishing the game on a 12-2 run.
"They outworked us in the first half. They were getting up and down and getting rebounds," said Brandon Search, a senior post who led all scorers with 20 points, 11 of them in the fourth quarter alone.
"Search was a beast on the boards. We were supposed to be limiting them to one shot, but we weren't blocking out," said Reggie Clinton, who led Kennewick with 19 points. The senior guard had 17 points heading into the fourth quarter but was held to just two points over the final 9:30.
"They slowed us down on offense, and some guys got a little tentative," said Lions coach Bradyn Leyde. "Give a lot of credit to Pasco. This was a test of our mettle, but I think this team is going to bounce back."
Kennewick jumped out to a 30-9 lead after Bryce Leavitt fought his way inside for two points with five minutes left in the second quarter, capping a 19-0 run that seemed to spell the end for the Bulldogs.
But Burrell hit a 3-pointer and Search converted a three-point play to spark a 10-2 run to end the half, putting Pasco on the comeback trail.
"I told the guys at halftime this isn't over by any stretch," Villanueva said. "I told them win or lose, we want people to know they just played the Bulldogs."
After the Kennewick's big run, Pasco outscored the Lions 40-18 for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs forced 10 fourth-quarter turnovers, two on poorly executed inbounds passes inside the final 1:30 which cost Kennewick dearly.
"It's huge anytime they score and then we just give it right back," Leyde said.
KENNEWICK -- Pocasangre 5, Leavitt 9, Ramos 2, Reggie Clinton 19, Plew, Santiago 6, Domach 5, Sordahl, McKenzie 2, Smith. Totals 19-50 5-13 48.
PASCO -- Brandon Search 20, Z.Mendoza 3, Vera 4, Figueroa 7, B.Mendoza 6, Burrell 6, Wright 2, Murillo, Coleman, Cleveland 1. Totals 15-55 17-22 49.
Kennewick 18 14 10 6 -- 48
Pasco 4 15 8 22 -- 49
Highlights -- Rebounds K 38 (Stetson Plew 8), Pasco 24 (Search 8); Turnovers K 21, P 11; Steals K 5 (Bryce Leavitt 3); P 14 (Julian Figueroa 5); Leavitt 5 assists.