The Minarets boys basketball team (5-6) started the New Year with a win against the Hawks of Liberty Madera Ranchos. The Mustangs and Coach Paul Varner lost to the Hawks Dec. 12 in the Liberty Hawk Classic 57-47.
It was Minarets’ first win in seven years against Liberty.
The tables were turned this time as the Mustangs jumped out to a 15-12 lead in the first period of play. At the half it was tied at 24 as both clubs traded baskets in the second period, with the Hawks converting free throws to close the gap.
The Mustangs erupted for 18 points in the third period, outscoring Liberty by 13 to take a commanding 42-29 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
The Hawks would put up 17 in the final period but fell 54-46.
James Backmann led the Mustangs with 18 points, including 12 points from beyond the 3-point arc. E.G. Walden added another 13 points with Grant Denny scoring 10. The 6-foot-7 senior was a force in the paint as well, leading the Mustangs with 16 rebounds and recording 7 blocked shots.
Hoping to ride the wave of their recent success, the Mustangs opened West Sequoia League play Tuesday against what is considered their top challenger for a league title, the Redcats of Fowler (10-3). The score was not available at press time.
“I have a basketball smart team this season,” said Varner. “We have had teams with more talent but this group of players are much easier to coach, they listen and they execute.”
On Jan. 13 the Mustangs will travel to Fresno Christian (6-10). Jon Penberthy’s team is struggling as league play starts, but the Eagles have always played Minarets tough with most of their games coming down to the final minutes of play.
Fresno Christian is averaging 52 points a game compared to the Mustangs’ 47, while also holding an advantage in rebounding averaging 30 per contest, as Minarets averages 23.