The Minarets Mustangs Basketball team (11-8, 5-3 WSL) climbed back into the West Sequoia League race Feb. 8 with a home 81-78 overtime win against the Parlier Panthers (7-16, 3-5). Junior Conly Biglione scored a school record 33 points. It's the second time this season the two teams went into overtime with the Mustangs winning the first meeting 42-41.
This time, Minarets jumped out in front 17-6 in the first period and held at 34-23 lead at half.
Coming out of the break the Panthers went with a full court press that somewhat stymied the Mustangs offense. The Panthers took the lead as the third quarter expired 51-47.
The Mustangs answered by out hustling the Panthers throughout the 4th period outscoring Parlier 24-28, to take the game into overtime. The Mustangs crowd was out in force and had the gym rocking as never before. Creating a home court advantage is something the students are learning can play a key role in a win or loss. If Friday nights game was any indication, the Mustangs will be had to beat on their home court as they prepare for league play.
Tied at 75 as the overtime period started, the Mustangs scored on their first possession, two key turnovers later, Minarets had the lead, 78-75, with time running down. The Mustangs went to running the clock, Parlier could do little as it was a game of keep away the rest of the way. The end result, a 81-78 victory and a first place spot atop the Divisional standing.
The team played one of their best games of the season, with each team member contributing to the victory. Biglione lead all scores, senior Austin Pimentel scored 20 points, Bo Campbell added 12 and Sam Millar and freshman Mason Ellis had six each. The addition of 6-foot-4 Connor Reid's addition has been instrumental in the teams last two victories -- he had nine rebounds against the Panthers. Ellis had 17 and Campbell 12.
"The team understands we are preparing for the playoffs, said first year coach Paul Varner. "They came out with playoff intensity and with fire in their bellies. They played unselfishly, doing what it takes to win." Pimentel played the fourth quarter and overtime with four fouls, but the experienced senior played cautiously while scoring six points and getting three steals in the final 12 minutes.
With seconds remaining in regulation play, the Mustangs fouled Parlier only to have their best sharp shooter step to the line in place of the fouled player as coach Varner called for a time out, trying to bring attention to the refs oversight. To no avail, both free throws were made and the game went in to overtime.
The JV team lost to Parlier 41-27 while the girls varsity, starting four freshman, lost 34-29.
Mustangs beat Fresno Christian 56-45
On Feb. 5, the Mustangs visited Fresno Christian (10-13, 4-4), to take on 6-foot-8 Matt Howard and the Hawks, winning the game 56-45.
The Mustangs trailed at the half 20-25 but came out of the break playing inspired basketball. Three consecutive turnovers, converted at the other end pulled the Mustangs to within two, 25-27.
Pimentel and company put the game out of reach in the final period as they would go on to outscore the Eagles 26-20 in the second half. Pimentel led all scorers with 23 points. Biglione added 14. Fresno Christian missed 11 of 13 free throws down the stretch.
"This game shows we are learning our identity game by game," Pimentel said. "We set a goal to win the Valley, and that is what we are building on." Sam Millar is leading the league in blocked shots.
The Mustangs traveled to Caruthers (17-7,7-1), who sit atop the West Sequoia standings, Tuesday. Game results were not available at press time. The Mustangs end the regular season at home Friday against the Riverdale Cowboys. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m. with the varsity girls playing at 6 p.m., boys JV 4:30 p.m.