The Live Oak Lions played some of the best basketball in the area this season.

The Live Oak Lions played some of the best basketball in the area this season, tying atop the standings in the Sacramento Valley League and securing a #5 seed in the CIF: Northern Section playoffs. They used their home field advantage to edge out the Colusa Red Hawks 63-58 to move onto round 2 and face the mighty #4 Gridley Bulldogs.

From the tip, the Lions had an upper advantage, putting up a nice 13 points on the scoreboard after 8 minutes of play in front of a roaring Lions crowd. Romario Acosta put up 7 of those points, including a three pointer from a couple of feet behind the three point line at the first quarter buzzer.

In the 2nd quarter, the Lions continued to keep their lead, despite scoring only 10 points in the latter half of the of the first two quarters. Acosta led the Lions in scoring for the quarter again, tallying 6 points.

At the half, the score was a bit lower than what you might expect from a playoff game: 23-17. The important thing was that the Lions were the owners of the 23 points. Acosta had scored over half of the Lions’ points with 13. Gurbeer Kooner added 4 points. The offense had a difficult time in every category: only 3 assists, 9 turnovers, 4/6 from the free throw line, 3/7 from three point land, and not even 22% from two point range. The Lions defense was the reason they were leading even though they hadn’t put up much offense. The box score showed this with the Lions collecting 9 steals and 16 rebounds.

However, in the second half, the Lions went on an offensive tear, scoring 40 points in the half. In the 3rd quarter, the Lions put up a whopping 21 points. Aaron Pamma, who had been quiet so far on the night, caught fire and put up 11 points. In the 4th, the Lions put the game away by scoring 19 points. Kooner and Acosta combined for 13 of those 19 points. The Red Hawks fought till the very end, even making a run late when the Lions slowed on defense thinking the game was over. But the Lions lead was too big to overcome as the Lions won by a score of 63-58.

The Lions’ offense in the 2nd half caused the final stats to be pretty good. While the Lions didn’t reach 50% shooting from the two point area, they did do it from behind the arc. But the offense ultimately came down to free throws. The Lions were sent there 17 times in the 2nd half and they delivered, making 11 of them. Romario Acosta led the Lions in scoring with 23 points while Aaron Pamma and Gurbeer Kooner each contributed 15 points. In the entire game, the Lions grabbed 25 rebounds, dished out 11 assists, blocked 9 shots, stole the ball 19 times, and turned the ball over 18 times.

After the game, I talked with Lions coach Zach Wilson and asked him about how important the free throws were down the stretch. “It’s one of the last things at practice” he said. “You have to knock them down when you’re tired.” As for how he plans to attack Gridley? “We need to pick up the intensity. You need to outplay them to win.”