It was a great year for high school basketball in our mountains. Both the varsity boys and girls teams from Yosemite High and Minarets made the playoffs.
The YHS girls program had another stellar season. After a brutal early season schedule the Lady Badgers (16-15, 8-2 NSL) reeled off eight straight wins before bowing out to the No. 1 seed Redwood in the playoffs.
Coach Gary Blate’s team were seeded No. 7 in D-II and defeated Selma 47-36 at home before falling to Redwood 51-42, after leading at the end of three quarters. It was the third straight year that YHS won their first playoff game and lost in the semifinals round. For a program that used to regularly play in Selland, some may see it as a disappointment, but it’s absolutely not.
Due to the Central Section’s quest for parity, Yosemite, with an enrollment of about 750, must play in D-II, putting them against schools with enrollments of more than 2,000. YHS will win a playoff game, but going up against bigger programs, it’s a numbers game no matter how great your coach is, and Blate is one of the best in the Valley. It’s time that YHS move into at least D-III and not be punished for their past success.
The Minarets girls (19-6, 8-2) secured a No. 3 seed in the Central Section CIF D-V playoffs. It is the third straight year the program has achieved a playoff berth. The Mustang girls have compiled a 43-24 record since the 2013-2014 season.
After playoff wins over Laton and Fowler the Mustangs fell in the semifinals to Caruthers 45-24. Still, coach Deann Kamalani’s team secured a No. 15 seed in the So Cal Regionals and traveled to San Luis Obispo to face No. 2 seeded Mission Prep March 9. Scores were not available by press time but can be seen at www.sierrastar.com.
For the Minarets boys (9-15, 5-5 WSL) and head coach Paul Varner, it was a return to the playoffs after a two year absence, getting the No. 9 seed in D-V. They lost to No. 8 Sierra in the opening round, 70-47. Sierra nearly upended eventual champ Kern Valley.
The Mustangs were lead by four-year varsity starter Mason Ellis. Ellis was one of the top centers in the Central Section, not just D-V. Ellis averaged 19.7 points per game (12th in the section) and 12.6 rebounds (third in the section). When Ellis played head to head against YHS’s Kade Cross, one of the great YHS big men of all time, he simply dominated. During the game vs. YHS, Ellis outscored the entire Badger front line.
The biggest turnaround this year in mountain hoops belongs to the YHS boys. Coach Aaron Eames and assistant Erik Peterson took a team that was in complete disarray last season (6-19 overall) to 19-10 in 2015-16. The Badgers took second place in the tough North Sequoia League and their first playoff appearance since the 2011-2012 season.
The Badgers were blown out at Coalinga, losing 58-36, but the Badger boys are built for the long haul. YHS had only one senior (Kade Cross) and started two juniors and two sophomores. JV head coach Charlie Medley guided a sophomore-laden team to a 12-11 overall record despite losing his best sophomores to varsity.
Congratulations to players, coaches, and parents for the best year in mountain basketball in a long, long time.