The Minarets High School Mustang basketball (5-4) season is off to a good start this season.
The Mustangs had two home wins before the Christmas break, defeating the Immanuel Eagles (5-4) 72-59 Dec. 19 and the Farmersville Aztecs (6-2) 61-51 last Friday.
Against Immanuel, the Mustangs took a 22-16 first quarter lead on an 11-0 run, including 3-pointers from Austin Pimental and Albert Ellis. Immanuel forward Chris Baily scored all of the Eagles 16 points in the first quarter.
An Ellis 3-pointer as time expired gave Minarets a 35-30 halftime lead. The Mustangs played strong defense in the third quarter and Bo Campbell dominated the boards. A Ben Nelson free throw and Sam Millar tip-in sparked a 10-1 Minarets run and built a 54-41 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Eagles closed to six on a 10-2 run of their own, but Minarets answered with buckets by Campbell, Ellis and Pimental.
Immanuel's Baily finished the game with 32 points.
Ellis was three for three from 3-point land and led the Mustangs with 13. Campbell added 12 points along with eight rebounds and five assists. Millar and Conly Biglione had 10 points each. Millar blocked six shots.
Freshman Mason Ellis had nine points and four rebounds. Point guard Pimental had eight points, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Craig Talbot added five points and seven rebounds.
Minarets vs. Farmersville
Minarets took a 19-13 lead after a tough and intense first quarter with Pimental directing an up tempo attack and tough D that included five blocks from Millar. The Mustangs led 29-20 at half.
Minarets went on a 12-2 run to open the third quarter with 3-pointers from Pimental and Albert Ellis. The game looked well in hand with the Mustangs leading 41-22 midway through the third, but the Aztecs roared back going on a 15-0 run, closing the gap to 41-37.
Farmersville kept up the pressure closing to 49-48 with less than five in the game. Talbot scored three points and had key boards to keep the Aztecs at bay. Millar scored six points with two blocks down the stretch. A Biglione 3-point play sealed the 61-51 win.
"We put it together when we needed to," said Varner. "When we play tough defense, especially on the perimeter, good things happen. This team is close and responds pretty well under pressure. Give Farmersville credit, they didn't quit."
The Aztecs were led by guard Jose Del Real with 18.
Biglione ended the game with 20 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Pimental had 12 points and six steals. Ellis had three 3-pointers for nine points and Millar had seven points, nine blocked shots and six rebounds. Millar had 15 blocks in last week's two games.
"Sam's timing is great," said Varner. "He is not that tall but anticipates the opponent's shot."
Campbell had eight points and 13 rebounds.
Minarets is led by first year coach Paul Varner who has already led the Mustangs to more wins than any previous Minarets team and it is just pre-season.
Varner was previously the JV coach at Yosemite High. He played two years varsity basketball at Reseda High. Upon graduation, he served five and a half years in the Marine Corps where he coached youth programs. After his service, he took the head coaching job at Grace Brethren in Simi Valley. Varner has coached basketball youth programs in the mountains, as well as assisting in baseball and JV football at Minarets.
"In taking over the program at Minarets, I am looking to build long-term stability," Varner said. "I look at the basketball court as a classroom for more than just basketball. I love this game and want the kids to love it too. It is a privilege to teach kids not just lessons about sports, but lessons about life. Our goals are to obtain balanced scoring while teaching basketball fundamentals and teamwork. "
Varner will be assisted by JV coach Aaron Nichols. Nichols, a 2005 YHS graduate, is coaching the JV squad.
The Mustangs are led by senior point guard Pimental, a transfer from Hughson near Modesto. He averaged 12 points last year and was a two-year all-league performer at Hughson. He is quick and averages nearly six steals per game. Junior Ellis is the team's 3-point specialist. He leads the team in 3-pointers making nearly 40% of his shots.
Junior Campbell is a two year starter averaging nearly 10 points and 10 rebounds a game.
"Bo is steady," Varner said. "He also has a sweet jumper and can shoot the three."
Junior Millar can shoot from anywhere, but has picked up most of his points in the paint and is the team's leading shot blocker. Junior Biglione sees most of his action down low and is a strong defender despite guarding taller post players.
Senior Talbot has seen a lot of change in his four years at Minarets.
"Craig is our four-year player who has been through a lot," said Varner. "Craig has long arms and gets both hands on the ball to start our breaks. He has been playing well for us."
Minarets opens West Sequoia League play Jan. 15 at Fowler.
Other games include: Jan. 18, Fresno Christian at home; Jan. 22 at Parlier; Jan 25 Caruthers at home; Jan. 29 at Riverdale; Feb. 1 Fowler at home; Feb. 5 at Fresno Christian; Feb 8 Parlier at home; Feb. 12 at Caruthers; and Feb. 15 Riverdale at home.