On a cold, damp night outside, the varsity boys were making it rain three’s inside the Oakdale High School gym on the basketball court. The varsity Mustangs knocked down four treys to help lift them to a 57-52 victory over visiting Atwater on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
Junior forward Nate Van Cleave, in his first full year on the varsity team, got things rolling for the Mustangs as he scored the first two points of the evening on a short range jumper with 6:53 to go in the opening quarter. Van Cleave, who scored a game high 27 points in the victory, was also clutch from the free throw line as he went seven for eight from the charity stripe.
“All assists to my teammates, I moved without the ball and my teammates found me and I found a way to put it in the hoop. That’s great basketball and we got the job done tonight,” shared Van Cleave following the win.
The Mustangs led 16-10 after the first quarter and took a 29-19 lead at the half. After a great start for the Mustangs, things started to get sloppy in the third as Atwater opened the quarter on a 9-1 run before sophomore Dallon Barfield scored Oakdale’s first field goal to end the scoring drought with 1:47 remaining in the third. Atwater’s Brody Patterson scored five of his team high 20 total points in the third including a three pointer at the end of the quarter to give Atwater a 38-34 lead after three.
Oakdale bounced back in the final frame, and buckled down on defense. With 2:57 remaining in the game, Van Cleave spun his way through the lane, completed a reverse lay-up, and was fouled in the process. Van Cleave made the free throw to complete the three point play to regain the lead at 45-43. Senior Caden Farquer dished out his third assist of the game when he found sophomore Joseph Lutz eight feet from the basket and Lutz put it in to give Oakdale a 50-45 lead with 1:42 to play. Van Cleave and the Mustangs put the final nail in the Falcons’ coffin when Van Cleave drained a corner three with 1:15 in regulation, followed by a pair of clutch free throws by senior Octavio Padilla.
“We started to point fingers at each other, during the third quarter but we knew that’s not Mustang basketball so we pulled together as a team in the fourth and finished the night as a strong unit,” said Padilla about the team’s struggles in the third quarter.
“Every game is important and this was a big win for us,” praised coach Jeremy Fields about his team’s effort. “We strive at getting better each day and we showed signs of that tonight.”
Oakdale is now 4-4 in the preseason and were scheduled to face Sonora on Monday, Dec. 22 at home, after press time for The Leader. During the holiday break, the team will host the Oakdale Rotary Classic from Dec. 26-29. This will conclude the team’s preseason and the start of Valley Oak League play tips off when Oakdale travels to Manteca to take on Sierra on Tuesday, Jan. 6.