What the Casa Grande boys basketball team didn't give away was tweeted away by the officials Friday night in a disappointing 63-52 North Bay League loss to Ukiah.
Playing in their home gym, the Gauchos let a 14-point third quarter slip away, scoring just seven points in the final period.
The statistical difference was at the foul line, where Ukiah's Wildcats hit 22 of 28 free-throw opportunities, while Casa Grande was offered just five charity chances and made three. Six of the Wildcat foul-line shots came in the final 30 seconds when the Gauchos deliberately fouled in a desperate, but futile effort to fight back into the ball game.
The game was decided with just over three minutes to play. Casa Grande's once seemingly safe lead had already dissipated into a 49-49 tie when a scramble for a loose ball developed into a NFL-like fumble recovery scrum. The upshot was a foul called on a Casa Grande player, followed quickly by a technical foul for too antimatingly protesting the original call.
The result was four consecutive free throws for Ukiah. To the Wildcats' credit, they dropped in all four, and then were awarded the basketball. Paul Steliga immediately swished a 3-pointer for seven Ukiah points within 30 seconds, and the Gauchos never recovered.
The final minutes of the game were spent with the Gauchos desperately fouling, Ukiah coolly converting and Casa missing at the other end of the court.
The loss was particularly galling for the Gauchos who dominated for the first two-plus periods.
Casa Grande, as has been its happy habit in recent games, started quickly, with five players scoring in the opening period, as they built a 14-7 lead.
Cetrick Yeanay hit one of his hot streaks in the second period, accounting for 10 points as the Gauchos, taking advantage of eight Ukiah turnovers, held on for a 30-24 advantage at the intermission break.
Early on the third quarter, Casa Grande, fueled by Kyle Kaupe working underneath and Jake Ielmorini driving to the hoop, went on a 10-1 run to build a 43-29 advantage.
Then, the ice age slipped into the Coach Ed Iacopi gymnasium. Casa Grande had only a put back by Ielmorini to show for its final three minutes of work in the third period, while the Wildcats suddenly either couldn't miss, or when they did miss, were awarded free throws for their initiative.
After the seven-point foul-line instigated Ukiah surge, Casa Grande's only basket was a 3-pointer by Yeanay, who had 17 p0oints in the game. Ielmorini had a solid all-around game with 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals. Drew Busse, who has been coming on strong of late, finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Ukiah was led by Paul Steliga who often found his way to the basket through a sea of Gaucho defenders, and was automatic from the foul line, ending with 24 points.
The loss dropped Casa Grande to 1-3 in NBL play and 9-7 overall. The Gauchos play at Santa Rosa Thursday night. Ukiah, with the win, improved to 2-2 in league play and 9-6 overall.