EL CENTRO — It was a rival vs. rival showdown Friday night as the Central Union High Spartans hosted the Brawley Union Wildcats in a crucial Imperial Valley League meeting as both teams entered the game 2-2.
Full stands were rocking early and often as the Central home crowd provided inspiration for their Spartan basketball squad. The home crowd advantage was fueled by Saad Awan and by huge late shots by Brandon Argandona, helping Central to a 64-58 victory over the Wildcats, avenging an earlier loss. The win put Central in the IVL driver’s seat.
“Last time we played at their house, they came out and punched us early, very hard, and we never recovered. We were dazed the whole game,” said Central head coach Juan Valenzuela. “I felt that with the atmosphere, us having a home game, we needed to stay in the game early to stay confident.”
It was a crazy atmosphere which only made the importance of the game more evident to Brawley.
“It was a hard fought game and both teams played well at times. The big shots, at the right time, all fell for Central,” said Brawley head coach Jeffery Deyo.
Early on, the Wildcats looked to continue their shooting onslaught against the Spartans as Jeremiah Crane and Isaiah Bustamante were on fire early.
Crane nailed his first three, three-pointers, continuing his shooting after going 4-for-4 from three in Brawley’s earlier win over the Spartans this year.
After halftime with Spartans down 32-27, the newly selected homecoming king, Awan, refused to let his royal night end in defeat, helping the Spartans taking control of the game in the third quarter through his hustle and crucial decision making on the ball.
After tying the game at 43-all, Awan wiggled his way through the Wildcat defense and give the Spartans a 45-43 lead right before the end of the third; the Spartans did not look back from there.
Argandona took over for Central in the fourth, hitting big three’s late to put the game away.
Also aiding the Spartans in the offensive fight in the paint for rebounds was Gurkamal Pummay who’s late second chance put backs also proved crucial in the 64-58 victory over Brawley.
“Once we took the lead, we became a little bit more confident and then our shots started to fall in,” said Valenzuela of the late Central rally.
Up next for Brawley will be hometown showdown with six-mile down the road neighbor, Calipatria, on Tuesday with an IVL close out game against Southwest on Friday night, also at home.
“You have got to give them a lot of credit. They fought back after a tough loss at our place. They played well, they played smart,” added Wildcat Coach Deyo on the contest.
The Spartans now need a win against Calexico next week to ensure a share of the 2016 IVL title.
The Central final regular season week will start with a meeting with Palo Verde Valley followed by their last IVL matchup with Calexico, with a share or possibly outright IVL championship on the line for them.
“We’re excited for the opportunity,” said coach Valenzuela of the spot his team is in heading into the final week of the regular season. “We’re looking forward to going to work and performing well in those two games.”