STOCKTON — The Tokay High boys basketball team played back-to-back tough opponents to finish last week, and while the Tigers went 0-2 in those games, the did display a little resilience.
Taking part in the inaugural High School Classic against Venture Academy on Saturday afternoon at Stockton Arena — home of the Stockton Kings, who are G-League team to the Sacramento Kings — Tokay found ways to put the basketball through the net. But Venture Academy held on for a 74-60 win.
Venture Academy, out of Stockton, held a 31-13 lead at halftime. But Tokay (0-4) made a game of it in the third quarter, when Hamza El Kheidi scored a combined seven points within two minutes of the quarter; that included hitting two 3-pointers and 1 of 2 free throws. Those shots behind the arc made it a 33-20 score.
But the Mustangs galloped to a 42-29 lead in the quarter, thanks largely to creating Tokay turnovers in the backcourt and rebounds. On top of those fortunes, Venture Academy’s David Stallworth scored four of his game-high 11 points and Chandler Miller hit a 3-pointer that helped to building the bigger lead.
Tokay, too, relied on shots at the free throw line and 3-pointers to keep the game close. Huzi Wasiq and Nick Merrill, coming off the bench, contributed to those points. One of Wasiq’s shots included a turnaround after missing and grabbing his own rebound. El Kheidi also scored a bucket that led to a 42-34 score late in the quarter.
The Tigers also used a combination of driving to the basketball and four 3-pointers in the quarter to keep the game close. Tokay finished with seven in the game.
“Looking up, driving, being almost fearless,” said Tokay coach Chris Boss of the Tigers’ play in the second half. “It’s something we’ve talked about in practice. They actually put it fourth in the second half.”
The Mustangs and Tigers traded baskets toward the end of the third. That led to Venture Academy holding a 46-36 lead.
Now in the fourth quarter, Venture Academy took advantage of its own missed shots through offensive rebounds from Jaylen Lee and Amari Maze. That led to a 60-40 score four minutes into the quarter.
However, Tokay players were able to draw fouls near their own basket. That led to making 12 of 15 free throws. Plus, Tiger guard Uriel Penaflor (team-high 11 points), Merrill (nine points) and Ryker Henne (also nine points) hitting 3-pointers.
“It was good, getting to the line,” Boss said.
Venture Academy, however, made 8 of 10 free throws in the final half of the quarter to secure the win.
In the first quarter, Venture Academy forced Tokay into more than a half-dozen turnovers. But the Mustangs had trouble finishing their shots, as they held a slim 13-7 lead over the Tigers after the first eight minutes of action.
But in the second quarter, the Mustangs’ shots, which were followed by their continued harassment of the Tigers into creating turnovers, went through the net. That established their 31-13 halftime lead.
“Here’s what we keep preaching; keep getting those first couple of layups in,” Boss said. “Subconsciously, you see the ball go through the net, your confidence immediately builds. You start stepping into your 3s. They start falling a lot more.”
Behind Penaflor, Merrill and Henne in scoring for Tokay were El Kheidi, who also had nine points. Andrew Gauna and Wasiq each had four points, and Cylas Riley and Nate Starkovich each had two points.
Five players scored in double figures for Venture Academy; Stallworth had 11 points. Lee, along with Maze, Dee Ware and former Elliot Christian basketball player Ian Malagon each had 10 points. Logan Kottinger, another former Elliot player, and Patrick Haynes each had eight points and Miller five.
On Friday, Florin, out of Sacramento, coasted to a 68-35 win over Tokay. Boss was pleased with how quickly his players adjusted from a 33-point loss to Florin, which used its front-court to grab rebounds and score, into playing a quicker Venture Academy team.
“I think coming off (Friday’s) game, they were a little bit afraid of making the right moves,” Boss said. “I liked how they responded.”
For a second consecutive week, Tokay plays four more non-league games in five days. Tokay played four games last week that included the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Foundation Game against Elk Grove, followed by games against Oakdale, Florin and Venture Academy.
On Monday, Tokay played at Monterey Trail of Elk Grove. Then on Tuesday, Tokay welcomes its previous head coach, Travis Okamoto, and his River City High squad out of West Sacramento to The Jungle. The next two games — both at The Jungle — has Tokay entertaining Escalon and Wood of Vacaville.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.