Bulldogs beat Huskies, advance to semifinals
After losing to Sutter 49-46 on Feb. 7, Gridley High boys basketball coach Nathan Link knew exactly what the Bulldogs had to do to right the ship and get back into contention for a section title.
The first key was to play with more energy on defense. The second was to attack the glass and fight for every rebound.
Those two issues had plagued Gridley at times this season, but on Friday night, the Bulldogs' hustle proved to be all the difference.
Led by a balanced scoring attack, Gridley controlled the paint and played lock-down defense to build a 26-point fourth-quarter lead and cruised home for a 58-47 victory at Farmer's Hall in the second round of the Northern Section Division IV playoffs.
The two teams had split their two Butte View League contests during the regular season, but this game had much more at stake. It was win or go home, and the Bulldogs were up to the challenge.
"I wanted us to be more disciplined, play good defense and play as a team, and we did that," Link said. "But the big thing was rebounds. We didn't give up too many second-chance points tonight."
He couldn't have been more correct.
The No. 4-seeded Bulldogs (13-12) dominated the boards all night long and went on to outrebound the No. 12 Huskies 30-14 over the first three quarters while putting the game out of reach early. In all, Gridley pulled down 15 offensive rebounds and outscored the Huskies 30-12 in the paint.
With Sutter's inability to score inside, Gridley was also able to close out on the Huskies' shooters and limit them to a 6-for-23 mark from 3-point range.
"The defensive intensity was a lot better tonight," Link said. "We went zone last time, but coming out in man-to-man made us a lot more active."
Making things even more difficult for Sutter was Gridley's balanced scoring attack. Seven different Bulldogs scored five points or more, led by Ryker Canada's team-high 14.
Kevin Mattos and Mat Scott chipped in with nine points each, Alex Medina added eight and Mike Fenn scored seven in the win for the Bulldogs.
"That's when we're at our best," Link said. "When we get balanced scoring, it makes things tough on the other team because they can't key on just one person."
Elijah Smith scored a game-high 23 points, Trent Little had seven and Quentin Hick scored six for Sutter (10-16), which scored the game's final 15 points once Gridley emptied its bench.
"They did a better job rebounding tonight than they did last the time we played them," Sutter coach Bernie DiDario admitted. "The kids played hard, but we had to have more rebounding."
With the victory, the Bulldogs advance to the section semifinals on Wednesday night where they will play at BVL-champion and top-seeded Orland. The Trojans beat the Bulldogs twice during the regular season, squeaking out a 69-64 overtime win in Orland on Jan. 17 before handing Gridley a 68-54 setback on Feb. 3.
"They've been to the section title game the last two years, but they haven't won it yet," Link said of the Trojans. "I'm sure they'll be hungry."
CONTACT Andy Arrenquin at email@example.com or 749-4790. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADaarrenquin.