The Minarets Mustangs basketball season came to an abrupt end Feb. 27 when the Central Section Division V top seeded Mustangs (12-10), lost its semi-finale playoff game 54-51 to the No. 4 seed Laton Mustangs (11-17).
Minarets came out as tight as they have played all season, missing several shots along with many put-backs under the glass. After a cold five minutes to begin the game, they battled back to trail by one, 11-10 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter wasn't much better for Minarets with many missed shots, allowing Laton to take a 37-25 half time lead.
After a somewhat cool first half, Minarets game back with a vengeance in the third quarter,led by junior Bo Campbell, to take a 37-34 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Freshman Mason Ellis was instrumental in the comeback hauling down nine rebounds. Playing in his last game as a senior, Austin Pimentel, Minarets 3-point specialist, came out of his cold spell, hitting three shots from behind the arc, the last giving the Mustangs the lead and bringing the crowd to their feet as the buzzer sounded.
The final period was a see-saw, back and forth battle, which had the feel of coming down to the final buzzer. Fatigue started to show on both sides as each team had key turnovers in the forth, eventually it would come down to the Minarets Mustangs inability to hit free throws, going 9 for 19 from the line. The team averaged 70% from the line on the season but struggled on the evening. Laton wasn't much better going 9 for 17 from the line, allowing Minarets to have a chance to tie with 1.9 seconds remaining.
Coach Varner gave his team every chance he could from the bench as he pulled Pimentel from the game with three fouls and seconds remaining as the Mustangs went to the foul game. Trailing by seven with time running out, the Mustangs started sending Laton to the line as they fouled as soon as Laton inbounded. Laton couldn't convert at the line and the Mustangs scored five quick points to draw to with-in two points with seconds on the clock.
Varner brought Pimentel back in the game to attempt the win or tie, fitting as the senior was one of the reasons the Mustangs received the No. 1 seed. Pimentel averaged 22 points on the season, a Mustangs record, along with averaged 4-3 pointers a game.
The only problem, Laton's coach Rick Alves had done his home work and blanketed Pimentel with double coverage and the senior was unable to get a good shot off.
Campbell finished the game with 24 points and seven rebounds.
Laton went on to lose 46-33 to Tranquillity March 1 in the Division V championship game at Selland Arena.
The team, after its most successful season in the school's short history, will lose two seniors, Pimentel and Craig Tolbert, but Varner, the recipient of Coach of the Year honors for the West Sequoia League, will have a good core of players returning next year.