Both the boys and girls basketball teams at Minarets High School earned their first West Sequoia League victories last week over Fresno Christian, but each team also suffered a defeat at the hands of the Fowler Redcats.
For the boys team (6-8, 1-1 WSL), the Eagles of Fresno Christian (7-12, 0-1 WSL) were coming off a victory over Yosemite High, and proved to be a challenge but the Mustangs held out for a 61-56 win on the road Jan. 13.
Minarets Head Coach Paul Varner’s squad was coming off a disappointing league opener loss at the hands of Fowler 61-47 Jan. 10.
Fresno Christian dropped 18 points on the Minarets in the opening period, leading 18-10 after the first eight minutes of play. Minarets answered back with 19 points in the second period to pull to within one point, down 29-30 going to the break.
The Mustangs have a deep bench this year, with all players capable of scoring. Senior Hunter Thompson, returning to the hardwood after a two year absence, is making his presence known. The 6-foot-4 senior is making it tough on opponents with his 215-pound frame. Thompson scored 9 points for the Mustangs but his 11 rebounds were a difference maker. Along with 3 assists, Thompson has been a great addition for Varner and the Mustangs.
Entering the final eight minutes of play the Mustangs held a 43-42 lead. Senior Grant Denny came up big for the Mustangs with 15 rebounds to lead the team while scoring 10 points from the paint. The Mustangs held on for a 61-56 win to stay in the early running for a shot at their first league title.
Senior James Backmann led the Mustangs in scoring with 16, shooting 6-12 on the night, including three big 3-point shots. E.G. Walden scored 11 with a 3-pointer, and Denny was the third Mustang in double figures with his 10 points. Eight players contributed in the scoring for Minarets, something they are going to have to continue if they are to have a shot at beating the Fowler Redcats later this year. The Mustangs struggled at the free throw line, converting only 3 of 11 attempts.
Minarets recorded 46 rebounds against the Eagles, which turned out to be the difference in this close game.
The title will no doubt go through Fowler, and the Redcats let it be known as they defeated Minarets on their home court to open league play Jan. 10. Fowler beat Minarets 61-47 pulling away in the fourth period in what had been a close game (44-43 going into the final period). The Mustangs committed 24 turnovers in the game and shot only 34% on the night.
With 22 turnovers against Fresno Christian, the Mustangs will need to work on securing the ball and making better passes if they are to make a run at the WSL title, something that for the first time is well within their capability.
They improved considerably at the free throw line against the Eagles, converting 14 of 25 attempts for 56%. Riverdale (6-8, 1-0 WSL) will visit Minarets Jan. 24.
Girls team looks to improve
The Minarets Mustangs girls varsity team, (7-7, 1-1 WSL), came from behind against Fresno Christian (3-14, 0-1 WSL) to earn their first league win Jan. 13.
Minarets trailed 20-11 after the first period but outscored the Eagles 9-2 in the second period of play to trail 22-20 at the half.
By the end of the third period the Mustangs stayed within striking distance, down 34-30 with eight minutes to play. Coach Dee Kamalani’s team outscored Fresno Christian 13-5 in the last quarter for the 43-39 win.
Kristy Berry led the charge for Minarets, scoring 16 points. New to basketball, Julie Castleman has picked up the game quickly for the Mustangs, scoring 9 points, Sierra Stalter added 7 and Ellery Meade contributed 6.
The Mustangs lost to a good Fowler team (10-5, 1-0 WSL) 49-37 Jan. 10.
Fowler trails Caruthers (11-6, 2-0 WSL), the defending league champions, by one game in league standings.
The Mustangs will see just how they rank as they take on Caruthers Jan. 20. The Blue Raiders are expected to repeat as league champs this year behind coach Anna Almedia. On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Riverdale Cowboys (7-7, 0-1 WSL) will visit Minarets. Both teams have identical 7-7 records.