VERSAILLES, Mo. — Despite taking a lead into the second quarter, the California Pintos never really solved Cole Camp's zone defense Saturday in the Class 3 District 13 Tournament championship game.
After the Pintos grabbed a two-point lead through one quarter, the Bluebirds ran off seven straight points to take the lead. They never gave it up.
Although Cole Camp's lead stayed in or near single digits for the entire second half, California could never string enough quality possessions together to make a serious run, and ultimately fell 63-57.
"It was just one of those games," California coach Matt Moulder said. "They're a very good ballclub. They gave us issues with their size, beat us up on the boards pretty good and we didn't handle the physicality as well as we needed to."
Cole Camp's six-man rotation — all seniors — featured five players at least 6-foot tall, but it was 5-foot-8 point guard Austin Berendzen who was the biggest thorn in California's side.
Berendzen scored 22 points to lead all scorers and was also the primary defender on California's Isaac Ash following a sequence early in the first quarter when Ash drained three 3-pointers.
Ash led California with 19 points as the Pintos were forced to run a perimeter-oriented attack with Cole Camp shielding forward Jacob Wolken in the post.
"They took us out of what we were trying to do and we didn't step up and make plays like we needed to," Moulder said. "I needed to make better adjustments and the kids needed to be a little more aggressive in making plays."
Nine of the Pintos' 16 made field goals came from distance. Wyatt Bestgen and Luke Freeman were the only other California players in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Brady Smith scored 16 points for Cole Camp (22-6). He joined Trace Brandes and Kendrick Logan at the base of the Bluebirds' zone, which held Wolken to just five points.
Although California (11-15) overcame a similar disparity in size in its 65-60 upset win against Boonville in the district semifinals, the Pintos didn't shoot the ball nearly as efficiently Saturday against Cole Camp.
"We kept stressing that we can't be a one-man show and that we had to have other guys step up and make some shots," Moulder said. "It just seemed that everybody else was a bit hesitant."
Cole Camp will play Hogan Prep at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Harrisonville in the Class 3 sectional round.