Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Samuel Hass drives to the hoop in Tuesday’s close loss to the Bullard Knights in Joe Flores Gym.
The Madera Coyotes boys basketball team has seen its share of close games since the start of the season. That was the case again when the Coyotes hosted Bullard-Fresno in a County/Metro Athletic Conference match-up.
The two teams went back-and-forth Tuesday evening, but the Knights sealed a 69-67 win with a pair of clutch free throws.
“We had a lot of close games,” Madera coach David Lozano said. “We’re just trying to find momentum in terms of building on the close games.”
Bullard senior Chris Estrada caused havoc for the Coyotes, particularly in the fourth quarter when he forced three turnovers and converted them into points.
“Turnovers hurt us,” Madera senior Christian Aguilar said. “We have to protect the ball and stay composed.”
Madera’s Alek Trukki made two consecutive shots in the fourth quarter and helped the Coyotes tie the game after the Knights held a brief lead.
The game was still tied with a minute left, but the Knights regained the lead on a 3-point play by Omarion Thomas-Marshall.
“They got way too many straight line drives and way too many and-one opportunities,” Lozano said. “We didn’t foul hard enough or foul nearly enough. It’s okay to foul if you’re not trying to hurt people. It’s okay to make them earn it at the free throw line.”
After the 3-point play, Trukki drained his second 3-point shot of the quarter, tying the game with 40 seconds left.
With five seconds left and the game still tied, the Knights once again penetrated into the lane. This time, the Coyotes fouled hard enough and prevented a 3-point play, sending Bullard senior Jalen White to the free throw line for two shots.
The Madera crowd was not happy with the call, but Lozano was only concerned with the remaining seconds.
“I’m never going to question the refs,” Lozano said. “The basketball gods always told me not to question the refs. We have to control what we can control. The refs did a great job.”
The raucous Madera crowd did everything it could to distract White, but the senior was not bothered.
Down by two, the Coyotes tried one last desperate attempt which fell short and ended the game.
With the loss, the Coyotes dropped to 9-16 overall, 1-7 in league.
“We have two more league games and we have to find a way to get a playoff berth,” Lozano said. “If we can continue to have good practices and find a way to make the playoffs, we’ll be okay.”
Aguilar scored 18 points in the loss all on 3-point shots. Trukki added 13 points for the Coyotes.
Madera had an overtime loss against Selma to start the season and another overtime loss against Mission Oak-Tulare on Dec. 12. The Coyotes also suffered a 44-43 loss against Madera South on Dec. 22, but came out with a 55-54 win against Reedley on Jan. 5. On Dec. 19, the Coyotes beat McLane-Fresno 49-48.
“Missed layups come back to bite you in the butt, not boxing out on a consistent basis,” Lozano said. “But if they’re playing hard and being good teammates, that’s pretty much all I can ask for.”