The Minarets Mustangs basketball team (6-5, 1-1) opened West Sequoia League play Jan. 15 with a 60-48 loss to the Fowler Red Cats (4-10, 1-0) and a 64-47 win over the Fresno Christian Eagles (6-11, 0-2) Jan. 18.
Minarets first year coach Paul Varner has his Mustangs playing a fast paced tempo on offense to go with a smothering defense.
Last Friday, the Mustangs shocked Fresno Christian and their 6-foot-9 center Matt Howard who scored 28 on the night.
The first half ended with the Mustangs up 30-25.
The Eagles opened the second half with a full court press, causing multiple Mustang turnovers, while the Eagles outscored the Mustangs in the third quarter 17-10.
Dominating defense, led by junior Ben Nelson, in the fourth quarter by the Mustangs held the Eagles to just five points while the Mustangs scored 24.
The Mustangs out hustled the Eagles in every phase of the game in the fourth quarter and had some outstanding plays including some razzle dazzle from 6-foot-2 junior Sam Millar's spin move on Howard and senior point guard Austin Pemental on on a fast break going one on one with Howard, only to pull up and hit a 10 foot jumper. The Mustangs couldn't go through Howard, so they found ways to go around him.
Pemental lead Mustang scorers with 18 points, hitting three of four 3-pointers, along with seven assist and seven steals.
Pemental seldom misses an opportunity to dish out an assist when it is there. Ellis, who shows signs of maturing every game, scored eight including a 3-pointer. Conley Biglione and junior Bo Campbell scored 11 each, both making clutch shots for the Mustangs when needed.
Campbell lead the team with 13 rebounds and Biglione has 11.
Craig Talbot scored 10 points and had 12 rebounds and Millar had six blocked shots, including one on Howard. He also added seven points.
Red Cats beat Mustangs 60-48
On Jan. 15, the Red Cats jumped out to an early 15-5 lead, but the Mustangs fought back to get within five at the half, 30-25.
The Red Cats extended their lead to 15 in the third quarter, but again the Mustangs stormed back to cut the lead to seven with five minutes remaining in the game. A couple lay-ups that wouldn't drop for Minarets proved to be the difference down the stretch. "It was a wake up call for the team to the effort it takes to win," Varner said.
Pimental led the team in scoring with 18, as well as assists. Campbell added 12 while freshman Mason Ellis added 10.
Fowler coach Alfonso Alvarez played the game with a five man rotation every five to six minutes throughout the game while the Mustangs only had two players on the bench.
The Mustangs traveled to play the Parlier Panthers (5-11, 1-0) Tuesday in the warm confines of the Panther's gym. The Mustangs match up well against Parlier and will need to find a way to beat them on their home court, something the Mustangs have struggled with in years past.
The Mustangs will host the Caruthers Blue Raiders (12-6, 2-0) Friday. The Raiders two league wins have been over Fresno Christian (62-58) and Riverdale (79-29). The Raiders are led by 6-foot-4 junior Kushbir Thind who is averaging 21 points a game and went off for 32 points against Riverdale.
The Blue Raiders are averaging 62 points a game, five more than the Mustangs 57 point average. Tip off is set for 8 p.m. with the JV team playing at 4:30 p.m. and the girls varsity at 6 p.m.
Girls team defeated 47-12
The Lady Mustangs basketball team (2-7, 0-1) opened league play with a 47-12 loss at the hands of the Fowler Red Cats (6-8, 1-0) on Jan. 15.
The Mustangs, behind sophomore Madison Mead gave the Red Cats a run in the first quarter of play, down just 12-9.
Red Cats coach Gary Hains went to a full court press the remainder of the game, stifling the Mustangs. Fowlers constant five player rotation quickly tired the Mustangs and the game was well in hand by the end of the third quarter with the Mustangs trailing 37-8.
Mustang coach Jean Ann Ward realizes the battles ahead as the team enters West Sequoia League play but is confident her team will grow with each game.
Minarets will traveled to Parlier (0-7, 0-1) Tuesday.
On Friday, Caruthers will visit Minarets. The Mustangs lost to Caruthers in the Liberty Invitational, 55-15. Tip off is 6 p.m.