The first installment of the 2016 Yosemite Badger (13-6, 1-0 North Sequoia League) Sierra Chieftain (3-11, 0-1 NSL) basketball rivalry Jan. 15 in Oakhurst was another classic, with the Badgers winning 61-56. It was the league opener for both teams.
Despite only winning three times coming into the game, the Chieftains gave YHS a very competitive game. The Badgers have now won five straight.
“It was an exciting game,” Badger coach Aaron Eames said. “We didn’t get going early but had a much stronger second half. Give Sierra credit. They came to play. We had to work hard for this win.”
Senior center Kade Cross led YHS with 17 points, pulled down a season-high 20 rebounds, and had three blocked shots. Cross also had a season-high five steals.
Cross is closing in on the prestigious 1,000 Point Club at Yosemite High. Currently he has 975 career points, just 25 points short of the mark. Last week he became the all-time rebounds leader at YHS with 659, breaking Todd Hood’s 610 (1983-’86).
Despite the records, it was a difficult start for YHS. Yosemite had played an emotional game at Minarets on Wednesday, beating the Mustangs 68-35, and was sluggish at the beginning of the Sierra game. Against Minarets, forward Peter McLean had 24 rebounds, a new single game rebound record at YHS, breaking the record of 23 by Scott Perkins in 1986. He also had 22 rebounds against Fresno Christian Jan. 8, tying him for second in the record books with Tim Thomas (1982).
Two Harry Blunt 3-pointers propelled Sierra to a 9-6 lead, but the Badgers tied the game at 11-11 by the end of the first quarter. Sierra then went on a 11-0 run on its way to a 26-20 lead. Yosemite’s Cannon Eames got a steal and drove the length of the court for two, and brother Tristan hit two free throws to close the gap to 26-24 at half.
Cross scored the first three Badger baskets in the third quarter and YHS led 30-28. Yosemite built a 37-32 lead on a basket by Trevor Peter. Blunt hit a three and baskets by Chieftain center Clayton Ford brought Sierra back.
McLean sat out much of the game with four early fouls, and Cross picked up his fourth near the end of the third quarter.
Sierra had a 39-35 lead at the end of three quarters.
At the opening of the fourth quarter, Tristan Eames drove the lane and scored on a 3-point play, Cannon hit two 3-pointers from the corner, and soon the Badgers had a 46-41 lead.
The game got physical, and the Chieftains press gave YHS headaches. A Lee basket closed the Badger lead to 48-45. Cross hit two critical free-throws down the stretch and Yosemite had some breathing room with a 51-46 lead, but two threes by Sierra’s Tim Lee narrowed the Badger lead to 53-52 with 1:50 left.
In the end, Cross and Tristan Eames each hit two free-throws and the YHS defense stymied Sierra to secure the narrow win.
Tristan Eames finished the game with 16 points and was 10-15 at the line. Cannon Eames had 14 points, including two 3-pointers, six rebounds, and a season-high eight steals. Despite being in foul trouble all night, McLean had seven points and six rebounds.
The Badger bench also made strong contributions. Trevor Peter had four points, six rebounds, and a steal. Ty Peterson pulled down six rebounds.
JV team wins 51-42
The boys JV team (7-4, 1-0 NSL), coached by former Badger great Charlie Medley, beat Sierra 51-42.
“I’m happy with the win, but there is still a lot of work to do,” Medley said. “We are getting better as a team but have to correct our mistakes. We are working hard to improve defensively.”
Sierra got off to a strong start and led YHS 14-11 after the first quarter. The Badgers outscored Sierra 20-6 in the pivotal second quarter and led 31-20 at the half. Yosemite extended their lead to 46-26 at the end of the third. Sierra narrowed the gap outscoring YHS 16-5 in the fourth with the Badger backups.
Noah Allen led YHS with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists. Center Steve Schumaker had seven points, 12 rebounds, and two steals. Caleb Eicholtz had nine points and five assists. Tyler Mattyshock had a team-leading 13 rebounds.
Girls lose 37-25
After leading 8-4 after the first quarter, the Lady Badgers (7-13, 0-1 NSL) only scored 17 points over the next three quarters, losing its league opener to Sierra 37-25.
The two schools, with the smallest enrollments of all Central Section D-II programs, were co-champs in the NSL last year.
In a rebuilding year, Yosemite is playing this season with a very young team, with half the players being freshman and sophomores with no varsity experience.
At Union Friday
The Badgers face a critical week in their quest to win their first league title since the 1998-1999 season. YHS played Liberty (11-8, 1-0) Wednesday. Results not available at press time.
The Badgers travel to Washington Union (5-13, 0-1) Friday. Normally, the road to winning the NSL goes through Easton. This year however, the Panthers are struggling, and have lost its last four games. Union was defeated last week by NSL favorite Kerman 57-43.
The Panthers beat Yosemite twice last year, 54-35, and 74-52.
To win the NSL, the YHS boys have to get over the Panther hurdle.