By: Ahrize Faletoi
Last Friday night, the Tustin Tillers took on the Western Pioneers. Tiller Haakon Ullrich had 19 points to lead all scorers, but it wasn’t enough to rally the Tillers past the Western Pioneers. The Tillers are 8-16 overall and 2-6 in the Empire League, after their 34-37 loss on that night.
Throughout the first half, most of the Tiller’s point were put up by Ullrich. Ullrich scored 10 of the Tillers’ 18 points and kept the team within a 1 point difference at the half.
At the start of the third quarter, the Pioneers sparked a 6-0 run and took a 7 point lead against the Tillers. Senior guard, Keith Washington and Junior center, Rahul Bagga were responsible for the Pioneer’s scoring. Washington and Bagga had 13 and 11 points respectively.
Although the Pioneers controlled the 3rd quarter and had a five point lead at the end of the quarter, the Tillers made a big comeback in the 4th. The Tillers scored 7 points in the first 4 minutes and took a 2 point lead for the remaining minutes, until the closing seconds.
The Pioneers took back the lead with a lay up by Washington, with a minute left on the clock. The Tillers did not communicate well enough and turned the ball over on a very important possession. Deon Faaseu stole the inbound pass from the Pioneers and went for the easy two but the Pioneer defense was too much for the Tillers. The Tillers missed 3 field goal attempts, forcing Coach Bossenmeyer to call a timeout to set up a play.
The Tillers set up a play for Hasani Shabazz to tie the game with a lay up but the Pioneers read the defense and Bagga blocked Shabazz’s shot to regain the possession of the ball. The Tillers intentionally fouled the Pioneers and the home team was sent to the free throw line. The Pioneers hit 1 of their 2 free throws and took the 3 point lead.
The Tillers had 21 seconds remaining on the clock, but unfortunately couldn’t hit a shot to send the game into overtime.
With the loss to Western, the Tillers will not qualify for the CIF playoffs this season. The Tillers went to the 4th round the last two seasons and won the Division 3 title back in 2013. This will be the first time the Tillers did not qualify for CIF playoffs in a long time.