Pintos fall again to Bearcats

At Missouri National Guard Shootout

Jerry Lutz of California drives past Garett Leimkuehler of Hermann during Saturday night’s game at the Missouri National Guard Shootout in Jefferson City.

Jerry Lutz of California drives past Garett Leimkuehler of Hermann during Saturday night’s game at the Missouri National Guard Shootout in Jefferson City. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Fleming Fieldhouse has become quite the home away from home for the Hermann Bearcats.

It’s becoming a house of horrors for the California Pintos.

For the second straight year in the Missouri National Guard Shootout, the Pintos were poised to beat the Bearcats. And for the second straight year, it didn’t happen.

On Saturday, Hermann held California without a field goal for a span of 8:20 from late in the third quarter and through most of the fourth to spark the Bearcats to a 52-50 victory.

“Two years in a row it’s been a dandy all the way through,” Hermann coach Tim Spiers said. “That’s a good ball club over there — (California) coach (Blair) Scanlon has got great kids.

“Both these teams gave the fans a good show, came out and played hard, kids diving all over the floor, working hard. That’s the kind of game you want to come watch.”

A dejected Scanlon said after the game it was tough watching a similar story to last year, when the Pintos blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Bearcats.

“This will be our last year in the Shootout,” he said. “We’re done. We aren’t coming back. (Hermann) can be an 0-24 team and when they play us, they win for some reason. I don’t know why. Give them credit, they just beat us.”

The Bearcats were able to beat the Pintos thanks to two big factors.

The first was the field-goal drought, as the Pintos didn’t make a basket from the 1:10 mark of the third quarter until there was :50 left in the game. California did make four free throws during that time, but they saw a 41-36 lead turn into a 50-45 deficit.

“That’s pretty awesome — I didn’t realize it was that long,” Spiers said. “I knew we’d done a pretty good job there, but that’s even better than I thought. Give all the credit to our kids, they stepped up.”

For the game, the Pintos made just 16-of-44 (36 percent) from the floor.

“(Hermann’s) guys look comfortable as heck playing here in this gym and our guys get here and we can’t hit anything,” Scanlon said. “They should schedule every game here at Jeff City because for some reason, they play really good.”

The field goal that broke the streak came when California’s Drew Norton came up with a steal and drove in for a layup to cut the deficit to 50-47.

After Hermann missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Pintos made their very next shot when Dylan Albertson drilled a 3-pointer with :14 that tied it at 50.

But that’s when Hermann came up with the second big factor in the win.

Following a timeout with :06.4 left, freshman Garett Leimkuehler took an inbounds pass, drove the baseline and was fouled going to the basket. He stepped to the free-throw line with :02.9 remaining and calmly drilled two free throws.

“To be able to have a freshman go to the free-throw line, in that kind of situation, and make two huge free throws, is big for us,” Spiers said.

The Pintos were then unable to get a shot off before time expired.

“I don’t get it, it doesn’t make sense, it wasn’t supposed to happen,” Scanlon said of the loss. “We’re way better this year, we’ve got everybody healthy and the same thing happened again.”

The fantastic finish was fitting in a game that featured 10 lead changes and five ties.

The Pintos took a 10-8 lead after one quarter, but the period was costly as Albertson and Jaden Barr both picked up two quick fouls.

“We missed Dylan and Jaden, our two leading scorers, the whole first half,” Scanlon said. “We’re having to fill roles and plug guys in, that’s a big change.”

Hermann came back to lead by as many as four points in the second quarter, but California closed out the first half on a 5-0 spurt thanks to a 3-pointer and a jumper in the paint by Jerry Lutz. That gave the Pintos a 26-25 edge at the half.

California then pushed its lead to 41-37 after three quarters.

“Both teams were resilient and kept coming back,” Spiers said. “It was back-and-forth. Kids on both teams played hard and I think both teams are going to have good years.”

Lutz ended up leading all players with 14 points. Austin Gump added 13 for the Pintos (4-3) and Albertson had 10.

Craig Winkelmann, Mat Hug and Josh Oetterer had 11 points apiece in a balanced effort for Hermann, which improved to 3-4.

“We’ve had a rough start to our year,” Spiers said. “The five teams we played (during a 1-4 start) were undefeated when we played them. It’s been a tough schedule, but I think it’s made us tough and now we’re going to see some benefits from it.”

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