The Lodi Flames got the monkey off their backs in a big way Friday night with a 67-55 win over the Tokay Tigers.
The win gave the Flames the San Joaquin Athletic Association varsity boys basketball championship.
Coming into the game the Flames (25-4 overall, 13-1 SJAA) had lost seven straight to the Tigers (19-10, 12-2).
"We finally got over the hump and beat them and won league," Lodi's Tyler Kidd said after a nine-point, three-assist performance. "We came in confident after a good week of practice. We feel like we can beat anybody."
Lodi coach Ken Green said the Flames' focus wasn't on the losing streak to Tokay.
"We've been playing great basketball the past four games," Green said. "We knew that if we continued to play unselfish basketball that we would be all right."
"The best part is that we're peaking at the right time."
The Sac-Joaquin Sub-Sections begin next week.
The Flames came out inspired in the opening moments led by Ezra Kiedrowski, who hit a 3-pointer and two free throws for a 5-0 Lodi advantage.
Tokay's Jeff McDaniel answered with a free throw before Lodi answered with a 4-0 run on buckets from Kiedrowski and Kevin Hasenfus.
Following two Kasey Hubbard free throws for the Tigers, Kiedrowski scored once and Jeff Pepper came off the bench for a quick two for a 10-point lead (13-3). Bobby Caffese made 1-of-2 from the line for Tokay's final point of the first quarter.
Lodi wasn't done. Greg Williams came off the bench for a hoop, Scott Woznick found Pepper for another deuce and with 1.9 seconds left in the period the Flames connected on a full-court pass to Pepper, who layed it in as time expired to end the quarter ahead 19-4.
The Flames shot 70 percent in the quarter and held the Tigers to scoreless from the field (0-for-9), with Tokay's only points coming from the free-throw line.
McDaniel opened the second quarter with a steal and Caffese found him for a 3-point play and Hubbard followed with two for a quick 5-0 spurt to force the Flames to call a time-out.
Lodi answered with a 5-0 run of its own on a bucket by Pepper and a 3 by Kiedrowski. Tokay came right back with seven unanswered points by McDaniel and Matt Loechler, who finished a 3-point play off a feed from McDaniel, before Brian Campbell sank two from the line to pull the Tigers within eight points at 24-16.
Following two scores from Lodi and Tokay, Tyler Kidd found Williams, who layed it in as the half ended with the Flames leading 30-20. Kiedrowski led all scores with 12 points. Pepper added 10 off the bench and Williams finished with four for Lodi. McDaniel and Hubbard each finished with seven for Tokay.
"The bench was a big factor in winning. In order to win games like this you have to have reliable reserve players that can give you a big lift. Pepper did a great job of doing that for us tonight," Green said.
The Flames came out smoking in the second half with seven unanswered points on a 3 and deuce from Kiedrowski and two free throws from Reed Doucette.
Tokay pulled within 15 (40-25) a few moments later with two free throws from Caffese before Kiedrowski hit another 3. Tokay outscored Lodi 9-8 the rest of the quarter, but still found itself down by 17 points (51-34) with eight minutes left in the game.
Tokay pulled within 56-42 on a hoop by Campbell with just over three minutes to play. But Lodi would not relinquish its lead and the Flames connected on 8-of-12 free throws down the stretch to hold off Tokay.
"Kiedrowski's play speaks for itself," Green said of his star's 25 points and solid all-around play.
Pepper added a career-best 13 points and Hasenfus finished with eight points. Williams added seven points, Woznick two, Doucette two and Zach Johnson netted one for Lodi.
McDaniel led Tokay with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Hubbard added 10 points in the losing cause. Loechler finished with nine points, Campbell seven and Caffese scored six points.
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