At 2-2 in North Sequoia League play, the Yosemite varsity boys' basketball team (4-17, 2-4 NSL) faced a pivotal week in North Sequoia League play last week, with hopes for a low-seeded playoff berth. Hopes were high following the Jan. 31 thrilling last second victory over Chowchilla, but those hopes may have been dashed as the Badgers lost 51-44 to Kerman on Feb. 5 and suffered a Feb. 7 blowout loss to arch-rival Sierra 85-55. The Sierra victory was it's first league win of the season.
Last Wednesday the Kerman Lions (9-10, 4-2) visited Oakhurst and Kenny Mendrin scored a season high 27 points hitting on six 3-point shots to defeat Yosemite 51-44.
"The team played a good game," coach Steve Lopez said. "We didn't get out on the perimeter enough to lock down their shooters. We had a lot of success inside, but we had to hit our outside shots too. We just didn't get it done."
Yosemite's shooting was cold from the start. After an Aaron Bausch 3-pointer, YHS missed their next nine shots. Kerman took advantage. The Lions went on a 7-0 run and led 12-7 after the first period. Mendrin hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Yosemite would come back in the second quarter with center Jared Wood scoring the first two baskets. A Chase Lassos steal and pass to a streaking Tristan Eames put YHS up 13-12, but two Mendrin 3-pointers put Kerman back up 19-14. The low scoring first half ended with Kerman up 21-19. Wood and Kade Cross each had six points and four boards.
Mendrin had 14 of the Lions 21 first half points.
Yosemite got behind early in the third period as their shooters went cold. Mendrin and the Lions were the opposite. Mendrin and Hart Singh nailed 3-pointers. Kerman built a 30-23 lead. A Lassos 2 pointer started a 6-0 Badger run. But a Yosemite turnover and two more Lion 3-pointers put Kerman up 34-23.
By the time the third period ended Kerman had hit on 7 3-pointers and had a 41-32 lead.
Once again, Yosemite made things interesting in the fourth period. Ben Williams had two steals and four points keying an 8-2 run. With 1:07 left, Yosemite was down only 47-44. The Badgers would get no closer. The Lions put the ball in Mendrin's hands and he delivered. Mendrin hit 5 straight free-throws to put the game out of reach. Mendrin was 7-8 from the stripe and was clutch all night.
Cross and Wood had 14 and 12 points respectively. Cross had 11 boards, Wood eight along with four steals. Ben Williams had six points and three steals. YHS was 20 of 49 shooting and only one of 11 from 3-point land.
Sierra wins by 30
Yosemite needed to rebound from the loss to Kerman. Going to Tollhouse wouldn't be easy even though YHS defeated Sierra 57-42 in their last meeting Jan. 17th in Oakhurst. Last Friday, Sierra (4-16, 1-5) had revenge on their mind.
The Chieftains of Sierra play in the smallest but loudest venue in the North Sequoia League. The Sierra crowd is a poor man's version of the Seahawks "12th man," and the Chieftain players fed off of the energy. Sierra utilized the crowd and shot the lights out of the ball hitting 12 three-pointers on the way to an 85-55 blowout win. It was the Chieftain's first victory in the NSL this season.
Employing a half-court trap and out-hustling the Badgers, the Chieftains had their highest scoring output of the season.
Sierra came out firing and connected early. Elijah Nora nailed Sierra's first shot. It was the first of 12 3-pointers. It was downhill from there. Nora hit another 3 along with Ernie Soto. Just like that it was 9-2. Lopez called a time-out to stop the bleeding. YHS went inside. Wood and Cross hit inside baskets, but Sierra's Brent Smith answered with two 3-pointers of his own. It didn't help that Yosemite committed 6 turnovers in the quarter. Sierra took a commanding 23-11 lead out of the gate.
Along with Sierra owning the perimeter, the Chieftains press was disrupting the Badger offense. Sierra head coach Anthony Patino kept up the pressure all game. YHS took good shots down low. They just wouldn't fall. A 3 by Sierra's Cameron Faust pushed the lead to 15. By halftime Sierra had hit 7 3-pointers and had a 44-28 lead.
Lopez made halftime adjustments. For a while they worked. Yosemite went down low with Wood and Cross. With 4:35 left in the third Yosemite had made a run. A Chase Lassos 3 narrowed the Sierra lead to 47-36. Yosemite would get no closer. The Badgers turned the ball over 4 times and Sierra pushed the lead to 66-50 at the end of the third.
Sierra did not let up. The shots kept flying. Sensing they were close to the school record for 3-pointers (13) and the crowd noise, the Chieftains shots kept connecting. Yosemite wilted under the pressure committing 6 fourth quarter turnovers. The Chieftains closed out the game outscoring the Badgers 19-5 in the final period. Sierra cruised to a 30-point victory and evened the 2013/14 series with YHS at 2-2.
Kade Cross led Yosemite with 16 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. Jared Wood added 14 points and 8 boards. Tristan Eames had 10 and Ben Williams 5. Brent Smith had a game-high 26 points for Sierra.
Elijah Nora had 14 and Ernie Soto 10.
The Badgers played second place Liberty last night (Wednesday) and host league-leading Washington Union Friday on Senior Night. The JV team plays at 5 p.m. and the varsity game is at 8 p.m.
North Sequoia League standings
Washington Union (6-0, 19-4)
Kerman (4-2, 9-10)
Liberty (3-3, 14-7)
Chowchilla (2-4, 11-11)
Yosemite (2-4, 4-17)
Sierra (1-5, 4-16)