Mustangs drop three at Hawk Classic tournament

editorial@sierrastar.comDecember 31, 2013 

The Minarets boys basketball team (2-7) suffered three losses at the recent Hawk Classic tournament at Liberty High in Madera Ranchos.

The Mustangs, in its first game of the tournament, fell to the host team, Liberty (8-2), 56-40, Dec. 18.

The Mustangs went into the game knowing they had to contend with 6-foot-9 senior Stetson Woods who entered the contest averaging 25 points a game. Mustang coach Paul Varner's team held the "big" man to 14 points and 12 rebounds, well under his season average, but couldn't find an answer for the rest of the Hawks well-balanced team.

The Hawks struggled at the free throw line throughout the game, shooting just 32% (6 for 19), which allowed Minarets to stay within striking distance. In the end it would be a team win for the Hawks as several players made up for Stetson's less-than-average scoring output.

Senior Travis Jordan scored 14 in the win, eight points better than his season average, while Trevor Stephens scored another 14.

Bronco's Croninger scores 32

In the Mustangs second game of the tournament, they fell to the Broncos of Dos Palos (1-5) 63-51.

The Mustangs struggled out of the gate. The first period has been the story for this team most of the season. In only two games this season have the Mustangs scored 10 points or more the opening period. It would be the difference in this game.

Trailing 17-7 going into the second period, the Mustangs outscored the Broncos 15-11 to go to the break trailing 28-22. The teams traded baskets in the third period and the Mustangs found themselves down 48-39 going into the final period.

Bronco senior Noah Croninger put the game out of reach, going 11 for 12 at the line, while putting up 32 points in the game, nearly doubling his season average of 17 coming into the game.

Things didn't fare much better in the Mustangs third game of the Classic, a 68-57 loss to the Eagles of Firebaugh (8-2).

Again the Mustangs spotted Firebaugh an eight point lead, 22-14 , going into the second period. The Mustangs would be out scored in the second period as well, 19-15, to go into the locker room trailing 41-29 at half.

It wasn't until the final period of play that the Mustangs put up a fight. Down 64-39, the Minarets defense, which has been its Achilles heal, shut the Eagles down, holding the team to only four points in the final period, while scoring 18. The Mustangs went from 25 points down and climbed to within 11. It was the Mustangs best period on the season and a positive note on an otherwise disappointing finish in the tournament.

League opener Jan. 7

It won't get any easier for Minarets as they prepare to open league play Jan. 7 against the Immanuel Eagles.

Coach C.J. Haydock is enjoying Immanuel's latest group of transfers which have made the Eagles instant contenders for this years league title. Immanuel lost a one-point game (76-75) to the defending league champion Caruthers Dec. 26.

The Eagles are averaging 62 points a game, while Minarets averages 48.

Darrin Person Jr., a recent transfer, is the player to stop. The talented freshman is averaging 21 points a game. Another transfer that will make the Eagles a threat this year is junior Lance Henderson. The 6-foot-5 guard, who splits time between guard and center, is averaging 16 points a game. Shutting down these two will be a must if the Mustangs are going to make it a game.

Rebounding is Immanuel's strength (46 a game average), with Person leading the team with 18 per game.

The Eagles score most of their points in the paint, and doesn't pose much of a threat from outside the arc, shooting just 32%, while attempting seven 3-pointers a game. The Eagles are shooting 59% from the free throw line.

Varner is looking for a great defensive effort from his Mustangs, while hoping to pull the reins back on Person. The teams tip-off at 7 p.m. in Reedley.

Two sophomores lead girls team in scoring

The Mustangs girls team (2-5) lost a close game Dec. 19 against the Washington Union Panthers, 54-49.

Minarets led 13-12 following the first period of play, but the Panthers outscored the Mustangs in the second quarter 15-10 to take a 27-23 lead at the break.

Both teams scored 14 points in the third quarter, with the Panthers hanging onto a 41-37 lead.

The team's traded baskets in the fourth quarter with the Panthers scoring13 and the Mustangs 12 to close out the 54-49 Union win.

With a roster of 12 girls that includes three freshman and five sophomores, the Mustangs are playing a varsity schedule.

The team features three seniors — Lina Rapp, Marissa Dodd, and Ericka Ward — and one junior, Madison Meade.

Two sophomores are leading the team in scoring, Danoelle Johnson leads the team with a 10.2 points a game average and fellow sophomore Kelea Kamalani is second, scoring 9.6 points per game. The team is young but seasoned, many have been playing together in travel ball for years.

The team will travel to Immanuel Jan. 17. Last year the Eagles throttled the Mustangs playing a full court press throughout the entire game, winning 45-4. That team went 22-4 on the season and sent a couple players on to play in college.

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