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Extras, Extras: Chavez 68, Lodi 60

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Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2012 12:48 am

What it means: Lodi missed a golden chance to take home the SJAA title. 

Chavez's win forced a first-place tie with one game left to play. If both the Titans and Flames take care of business next Friday, they'll split the league championship at 8-2.

The question becomes, who can avoid slipping up?

Lodi has an easier task, hosting the same cellar-dwelling Franklin team that it throttled by 43 in Stockton on Jan. 27. Chavez, meanwhile, must avenge an earlier 55-54 slip-up against Tracy to guarantee a share of the SJAA crown.

Expect some texting and scoreboard watching at The Inferno.

Stat of the Game: 54-35 Chavez's rebounding edge against Lodi on Friday night. That really made the difference for a poor-shooting Titans team.

With Brandon Michelucci and Benny Simi, the Flames are no slouch up front, but the Titans seemed to be in better position, time after time -- often rebounding their own misses. Jeremy Dawson was a one-man wrecking crew, pulling down 17 boards for Chavez and turning those into put-backs on more than one occasion.

Altered Rotation: Lodi was hurt by the absence of Colton Machado and Drew Schopp on Friday night, in more ways than one.

Machado has been a key cog for the Flames, providing senior leadership, shooting, ball-handling and defense; he would often start off games, allowing Simi to provide a powerful punch off the bench. And having Schopp would have given Lodi's two bigs some extra breathers.

Instead, Dave Nutting had to switch up the rotation, turning to his reserves -- Cody Balzan, Trenton Meier, Garrett Hanna and Grant Hennecke -- much earlier than usual. Hanna's two fourth-quarter free-throws were the Flames' only bench points of the night.

In the end, Lodi's starters -- a number of them battling the flu -- were simply gassed, allowing easy buckets in the decisive closing minutes.

Belasco Shines: There are times when stats alone don't tell the story.

The performance by Lodi's dynamic junior point guard, whose motor never quit, was just one of those games. Belasco poured in a team-high 17 points, but it felt like more. Seemingly all of them came at key moments, and in highlight-reel fashion.

He helped the Flames take their only lead of the second half, at 37-36, when he turned a stolen inbound pass into a lay-up.

After Chavez went back ahead, 39-37, and Michelucci briefly left the game with a foot injury, Belasco took matters into his own hands. The junior drew cheers from Lodi's crowd as he crossed up his defender, drove left and retied the game with a lay-in off the glass.

Belasco also nailed two huge second-half 3-pointers: at the end of the third quarter to bring Lodi within 49-45, and a pull-up from the top of the key that made it a 54-51 game in the fourth.




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