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Nighthawks knot TCC title chase
Yuba City could have all but clinched championship at home
Friday night's Tri-County Conference boys basketball tilt between Yuba City High and Natomas had the atmosphere of a playoff game.
The Honkers entered the contest with a one-game lead over the Nighthawks with three games remaining and looked to wrap up the league title with a win.
However, the visiting Nighthawks have title aspirations of their own, and led by the spectacular play of guard Jovan Daniels, Natomas escaped with an 87-78 win in front of a raucous homecoming crowd at Honker Gym .
"It was a big game and being a leader, I had to step up and give my guys a win," said Daniels, who finished with a game-high 40 points. "Points didn't matter to me, as long as we came out with a 'W.'"
The Honkers still have a shot at clinching a tie for the league crown but missed a golden opportunity to celebrate in front of their home crowd.
"It was a good game. Natomas came prepared to play in front of a tough crowd," Yuba City coach Brad McIntire said, adding that the Honkers' lack of hustle cost them.
"We didn't get after any loose balls, we didn't work hard on the boards, we didn't block out really well. Obviously, it's been our Achilles' heel, and it showed up tonight."
The Honkers came out hot to open the game by making 6-of-13 shots — including 3-of-4 from three-point range — to take a 22-20 lead after the first period.
Mundeep Purewal and Tyler Fry led the charge, combining to score 15 first -quarter points.
But as effective as Purewal and Fry were, Daniels was even better.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard, who entered the contest averaging 17.7 points per game, scored the first 11 points for the Nighthawks and finished the first period with 18 points on a variety of jumpers and drives to the basket.
With the Honkers leading 27-22 early in the second period, the Nighthawks went on a 10-0 run to take a lead they would not relinquish.
"It was two physical ball clubs playing playoff basketball," Natomas coach Dennis Foster said. "Someone may get a tooth knocked out, but it hurts worse when you don't come out with a win."
Natomas made 9-of-17 shots in the period — including 3-of-4 from behind the arc — to outscore Yuba City, 27-16.
Daniels scored 10 points in the second period to finish the first half with 28 as Natomas took a 47-38 lead into the locker room.
"We were running that fullcourt press and he ran by us," McIntire said of Daniels. "We didn't move our feet, we were just kind of waiting for him to dictate what he wanted to do, and he took it right to us. He played very well."
Fry came out strong in the second half to score 12 third-period points, but Yuba City couldn't gain any ground and entered the final quarter trailing, 67-59.
Natomas, which outrebounded the Honkers 19-9 in the second half, never allowed the Honkers to get within seven points in the final period.
"Like I told the players, a championship game on our home court, if you can't get after the ball and you can't block out, kind of hard to win a championship game," McIntire said.
Fry finished with a team-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers, Purewal scored 17 and Kevin Noall added 12 to lead Yuba City.
Vince Anderson scored 14 points, Isiah Robinson added 11 and De'Ondre Coppage chipped in 10 for the Nighthawks.
"We have a different person lead us every night," Foster said. "We've had four different players score over 20 points in a game and three players score over 30 in a game."
Contact sports assistant Andy Arrenquin at 743-0512 or firstname.lastname@example.org.