The Yosemite varsity basketball team (4-15, 2-2 NSL) faced their most difficult week of North Sequoia League play last week, travelling to Easton Jan. 29, to play the mighty Panthers of Washington Union (17-4, 4-0) and back home Jan. 31 to face Chowchilla (10-10, 1-3). After being blown out 82-30 at Union, the Badgers bounced back to defeat Chowchilla (10-10, 1-3) 58-57 on a game winning layup by sophomore Jayson Lee.
The Badger win against Chowchilla was the most exciting game of the year. In front of a boisterous crowd, tire game was close to the end.For a team starting two sophomores and a freshman point guard, gritty tough games are character builders.
"We are seeing what this team is made of," coach Steve Lopez said. "The team is really coming together despite our start. We let things slip away in the final quarter, but the team didn't quit. Cade (Cross) had a huge game but I was also very happy with our backups."
Both teams got hot right away. Chowchilla came out firing with five 3-pointers including three from Lorenzo Cuevas as well as center Andy Samaniego and forward Derek Dean. Yosemite's freshman point guard Tristan Eames countered by driving the lane and dishing to Cross, the 6-foot-5 sophomore down low. An up-tempo first quarter ended tied at 19.
Chowchilla continued their torrid perimeter shooting with Cuevas hitting another three-pointer. The Redskins put together an 8-1 run. But YHS battled back late with Cross dominating down low. Cross ran the break and scored on numerous feeds by Lee and Eames. Jared Woods kept YHS going defensively. A Stewart Carlson 3-pointer finally put YHS up 33-32. With time expiring in the first half, Dean hit a half court-shot for the Redskins and Chowchilla took a 35-33 lead into halftime. Cross carried the scoring load for YHS with 16 first half points. Eames had nine to go with four assists.
Both teams traded baskets for most of the third period. A Ben Williams 3-pointer gave Yosemite its first second half lead 43-41. Williams then drove the lane for a basket. Chowchilla shooters went cold. An Aaron Bausch 10-foot runner finished a strong third period and YHS led 50-43 closing out an 8-2 run.
Yosemite had a comfortable lead early in the fourth but mistakes cost the Badgers. YHS held a 56-50 lead with a Chase Lassos bucket and assist to Cross down low. Things unraveled from there. Chowchilla would score the next seven points as YHS committed three turnovers.
Chowchilla hit four straight free-throws. All of a sudden Chowchilla led 57-56 with less than 10 seconds left in the game. Taking off after a free-throw, Eames found a streaking Lee down the left side of the court. It was all Lee from there making the game winning layup with just seven seconds to go. A last second shot by Chowchilla bounced off the rim and Yosemite escaped with the exciting 58-57 win.
"I thought to call time out, but I saw Jayson in the open court," said Eames. He did a great job finishing."
"We really wanted this game," Lee said. "We let things slip a bit at the end, but we hung in there. It felt great to make the winning play."
The heroic ending would not have been possible without Cross. The sophomore had his highest scoring output of the season with 22, and also pulled down six rebounds.
Eames and Lee ended up with seven points each. Eames added four assists and a season high five steals. Lee also had four four assists and three steals. The Badgers got 16 points from their bench. Ben Williams had seven points and two assists. Aaron Bausch, Carlson, and Lassos combined for nine points. While only scoring two points, 6-foot-4 center Jared Wood pulled down nine boards, dished out three assists, and had three steals.
Panthers maul Badgers
The Badgers were outhustled, outclassed, and certainly looked intimidated against the league leading Washington Union Panthers earlier last week. Union, regardless of the score, pressed for every point and lose ball. The Badgers, like many teams that play against Union, were overwhelmed. It was virtually over at the end of the first quarter with the Panthers up 27-8. Union scored 14 points off eight Badger first quarter turnovers.
It got worse in the second period with Union continuing to turn up the heat on Yosemite. Badger turnovers continued. Union scored 16 points off YHS miscues. The Panthers had their own version of "Show Time" scoring on three straight fast break dunks. The small, but vocal Easton crowd loved it. The Panthers went into halftime up 53-16.
"This is easily the best Union team I've seen since taking over the program," Lopez said. "That being said, we didn't play like we practiced last week. We knew we had to minimize the turnovers and slow the pace. We didn't get it done. I still look at this as a growing experience. We are young. Union has seven seniors and it shows."
Lassos played his best game of the year scoring seven points and had three boards. The 6-foot-3 junior is seeing more and more playing time spelling Wood and Cross. Wood and Lee had six points each. Union center Shakor Major had 20 points and 15 rebounds. William Blue also added 20 with four 3-pointers. Point guard Isaac Sears had 15 points and 11 assists for Union.
YHS vs. Sierra Friday
The Badgers played the Kerman Lions at home yesterday (results not available at press time) and go to rival Sierra (3-16, 0-4) Friday in Tollhouse.
The Chieftains will not make things easy for YHS. This will be the fourth meeting this year for Sierra and Yosemite. Sierra defeated YHS 65-58 at the Kingsburg tournament in December. Yosemite then beat Sierra 53-51 at the Jesse Lujan Tournament in Selma on Jan. 10. Then Yosemite beat Sierra 57-42 in Oakhurst on Jan. 17 in the first NSL meeting for both schools.
In that game Wood and Cross combined for 27 points, 17 rebounds, and nine blocked shots. Sierra had a poor shooting night overall, but hit five 3-pointers in a 26 point fourth quarter outburst.
Last week, Sierra hung in with Union at Easton losing 74-61. Sierra relies on their perimeter shooting. Against Union, Elijah Nora and Brent Smith went for 22 and 21 points, respectively.
Count on Sierra to have a much better shooting night versus the last meeting with the Badgers. Winning in Tollhouse is never easy. Sierra coach Anthony Patino is one of the best in D-V. Yosemite will need to continue to own the inside, find Lee on the wing, and minimalize the turnovers. Eames is growing every game at point. Look for Lopez and the Badgers to use the same formula to pull it out at Tollhouse.
The JV teams tip-off at 5 p.m. and the varsity plays at 8 p.m.
Union (4-0, 17-4)
Kerman (3-1, 8-9)
Liberty (2-2, 13-6)
Yosemite (2-2, 4-15)
Chowchilla (1-3, 10-10)
Sierra (0-4, 3-16)