With standout player Babacar Pouye back in the flow after an injury, the Cate boys basketball team is finding its rhythm and winning games.
The Rams broke open a close game with a 15-0 run in the third quarter at Bishop Diego and ran away with a 56-42 Tri-Valley League victory over the host Cardinals in a chilly Brick House Gym on Wednesday night.
It’s the fourth straight win for the Rams, who knocked Bishop Diego out of a first-place tie with St. Bonaventure and pulled them even with the Cardinals in second place at 4-2.
The 6-foot-8 Pouye scored 20 points and was a handful for Bishop Diego to guard.
“When we feed Bab and we let him do his thing in the paint, he’s hard to guard,” said Cate coach Andy Gil. “He attracts so much attention that he’s getting really good shots for everybody else. We had a lot of layups today.”
The Rams had a balanced attack with Tyler Martinez and Jengus Eric each scoring nine points and Marcus Scudder adding eight.
The Rams attacked the rim with a vengeance in the second half and either created driving layups or drew fouls.
In its big run in the third, Martinez pushed the ball to set up teammates Peter Lechman, Josh Butler and Jacob Gabbay for baskets. Ercil scored in transition and Pouye knocked down a 10-foot jumper in the lane.
“Offensively, this was the most pleased I have been in January. We were patient, fed Babacar the basketball, and set stellar screens to get open layups,” said Gil.
At the defensive end, the Rams held Bishop to five points in six minutes in the third quarter. They turned a 26-21 halftime lead into a 42-25 advantage.
“Our third quarter was incredible. That was the difference in the game,” said Gil.
Bishop’s outside shooting was about as cold as the temperature in the gym.
“We struggled,” said Bishop coach James Coronado of the team’s shooting. “I feel like (Cate) just packed it in even more (on defense), hoping we weren’t going to make shots and we didn’t.
“We kind of got away from our principals of getting the ball inside first because they were packing it in. I still felt like there were openings but we just didn’t want to go for it. Once we weren’t shooting so well, they just kind of let it go.”
Bryan Trejo led Bishop with 13 points.
“This week, we really spent a lot of time making sure that we didn’t lose Trejo and we didn’t lose (Qu’Ran) Gossett. That was the whole game plan coming in, said Gil. “I think we made them work for it. They still ended up getting theirs, but it didn’t feel like the first round (a 48-41 loss).”
Coronado said the frustration of missing shots they normally make carried over to the defensive side.
“We had a game plan on defense which I felt like we were executing in the first half. But when the shots weren’t falling, it kind of got us a little more tight and that shuffled over to the defense,” he said.
So now the league title will be decided in the last two games of the regular season. Bishop plays at first-place St. Bonaventure (5-1) on Friday, and Cate hosts the Seraphs on Monday.
Bishop finishes at Santa Clara on Monday while Cate’s league finale is Wednesday at home against Thacher.