The Minarets boys basketball team opened the season last week with a 54-36 win over Woodlake.
Heavy with seniors, this could be fourth year Coach Paul Varner’s most balanced team and it showed in all facets of the game.
The Mustangs carry 13 seniors on the team, all capable of putting points on the board.
The first quarter ended with the Mustangs leading 9-7. By the break the Mustangs had extended their lead to 23-16. The Tigers came out inspired to start the third quarter, exchanging baskets with the Mustangs, scoring 12 points to the Mustangs 14, for a 37-28 Minarets lead going to the final 8 minutes of play.
Leading by 9 points, the Mustangs had their best offensive period of the game, scoring 17 points to put the game out of reach while holding the Tigers to just 8 points.
It was a team effort and Varner was pleased with the squad’s play.
“I was impressed with James Backmann’s play,” said Varner. “The senior played an outstanding game. Hunter Thompson, coming out for the first time since his freshman year, was an impact player in the paint - his four blocks were huge.”
Backmann led all scorers with 17 points including two 3’s, and was named player of the game by Varner.
Christian Conti added 9 points, while Thompson contributed 8. E.G.Walden and Michael Rendon scored 6 points each, Cameron Salazar 4 points, with Luke Pritchett and Jacob Walker adding 2 points each.
Varner has a team with speed, and should be strong rebounding with big bodies including 6-foot-7, 240 pounder Grant Denny (who missed the opener) and 6-foot-4, 215 pounder Thompson.
Varner has had teams with talent in the past but they sometimes struggled playing as a unit - this year’s squad looks to have the the discipline and the talent to have a good season.
The Mustangs finished 5-5 last season in the West Sequoia League, relying mostly on the talent of Mason Ellis, who drew double teams throughout the second half of league play. Caruthers and Fowler have been the traditional power teams in the WSL. Riverdale surprised everyone last year tying for second with Caruthers with 7-3 records. Fowler won the league title with an 8-2 record.
The Mustangs will know how good they are as they take part in the Golden Bear Tip Off Classic at Sierra Pacific. The Mustangs have yet to beat the Golden Bears, as the Valley’s two newest programs have squared off on a yearly basis.
The opening round game was played Tuesday and the Mustangs played Firebaugh on Wednesday. Scores were not available at press time. On Friday at 4 p.m., Minarets will face league rival Riverdale.