It wasn’t a do-or-die situation for the Big Bear High School varsity boys basketball team Jan. 17. But it was the Bears’ most important game to date.

They responded well to the pressure.

“Our defense just played outstanding,” said Big Bear head coach Bo Kent about the Bears’ 73-56 win over previously undefeated Excelsior. “We wanted to limit their point guard (Exra Bloch) from scoring. He had like 24 in the first game against us. I think he scored only three in this game.”

The Bears (9-11, 4-2) countered strong defense with a well-balanced offense. When the Eagles focused on one player, another Big Bear player stepped up to score. Seniors Bryant Cliff and Mikey Barrett led the way with 15 points each. Junior Blake Cramer went 3-for-3 from 3-point range for his 14 points, senior Jordan Randle added 12 points and junior Quaid McLinn chipped in 11 points.

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