The Yosemite varsity basketball team (3-11) participated in the 16-team Jesse Lujan Tournament Jan. 7 - 10 in Selma, in what turned out to be a tumultuous four days, with the Badgers going 0-4 for the tournament while enduring a complete upheaval of its program.
On Jan. 6, three varsity players, and two JV team members left the program. On Jan. 9, third year Head Coach Stephen Lopez resigned for personal reasons, and on Tuesday, former football Coach Aaron Eames was named the programs interim coach. Eames was the coach for the 2011-12 season and has also coached girls basketball at YHS. He also coaches boys and girls tennis at the school.
Although Assistant Coach Reg Turner filled-in for Yosemite’s final two games of the tournament, he resigned from basketball Monday. Turner will continue to coach the boys golf team.The players who left the program were expected to return to the program that is now attempting to regroup for the North Sequoia League opener Friday night at Sierra.
“It’s best that I leave the program at this time,” Lopez said. “I enjoyed my time as coach. I have been honored to guide a program that has been a part of my life.”
Lopez, a 1988 YHS graduate who was the Badger’s basketball MVP as a senior, finishes his three year head coaching tenure at 10-52 overall.
Lopez’s resignation comes just before the team’s Friday North Sequoia League opener against Sierra High.
Although no specifics were given, sources close to the program who asked to be remain anonymous, said there was some player’s parents who disagreed with Lopez’s coaching style, and those feelings were shared with school administrators.
Lopez leaves the program after spending two years as the freshman team coach, two years as the JV coach, and a year as varsity assistant coach. He also spent 12 years coaching Yosemite Youth Basketball Association travel teams.
“He (Lopez) gave his heart and soul to the Yosemite basketball program,” said YHS Principal Randy Seals. “He should be commended for all he has done for the players who came through the Yosemite basketball program under his watch.”
This is the third YHS varsity head coaching change in the past four months. The school announced on Dec. 16 that Kent Lincoln, head varsity football coach, was released from his coaching duties. In September, varsity baseball Head Coach John McMillen left the program after 11 years.
Becoming one of the most popular tournaments in the Valley, the Selma High boys’ basketball team and the Lujan family sponsored the third annual Jesse Lujan Jr. Memorial Basketball Tournament Jan. 7-10 at Selma High School, Abraham Lincoln High School and Kingsburg High School.
The 16-team tournament is played to honor Jesse Lujan Jr. died in a vehicle crash July 25, 2011. Jesse was about to enter his senior year at Selma High School. Previous champions of the tournament are Selma High in 2013 and Fresno High in 2014. Yosemite has participated in the tournament for the second consecutive season.
The Badgers opened the tournament to face Kingsburg. The Vikings (6-5) defeated YHS 70-57 December 10th in their season opener at the Kingsburg Lions Club Tournament. This time around it wasn’t even close as Kingsburg walloped the Badgers 68-32. It was the first game after players left the team, and Badgers were naturally out of synch.
Kingsburg jumped out to a 14-4 first quarter lead and took a 26-15 lead into halftime. The Vikings stormed out after halftime and dominated the third quarter outscoring Yosemite 24-5. YHS took the fourth quarter 12-8 against Viking backups.
Kade Cross led YHS with 10 points. Cross had 33 points against Kingsburg in the first meeting and the Vikings made sure that wouldn’t happen again. Cross was frequently double-teamed, especially in the paint. Peter McLean chipped in 7 points and pulled down 6 rebounds.
Lopez was forced to completely reshuffle the lineup. Two freshmen, guard Cannon Eames and Ben Negley were brought up from JV. They both had an impact. Negley scored 5 points and Eames 3.
Cannon Eames scores 15 in second varsity start
YHS faced a very athletic Hoover High squad. After playing even in the first quarter, the Patriots of Hoover (6-10) pulled away in the final three quarters to defeat Yosemite 93-63. It was a game where Cross returned to form scoring 22 and pulling down 13 rebounds. The story for the Badgers on this night was freshman shooting guard Cannon Eames. In just his second varsity start, Eames nailed five 3-point shots for a team high 15 points.
“We played as good of a team as we faced all season,” Lopez said. “Cannon (Eames) had a great game. We had to make adjustments and Cannon really stepped up. He has a tremendous future. ”
With player departures, sophomore Tristan Eames assumed full responsibility at point. Eames had 9 points and 6 assists. Eames and Cross are team captains and both did their best to lead the Badgers.
Yosemite was down 21-17 in a high paced, high scoring first quarter. Hoover pushed the tempo in the second period and took a 46-31 lead into halftime. The Patriots kept it up in the third outscoring YHS 24-14.
“We had to make adjustments with our new players,” Tristan Eames said. “It’s going to take time. We have a young team.” The Badgers have only one senior, Jordan Matoud.
Badgers lose to Chowchilla
The Badgers then played North Sequoia League rival Chowchilla. Two days earlier the players dealt with losing five of their teammates. Just prior to leaving for the game the players were told of the resignation of Lopez. It was devastating news.
“Tonight it’s just about basketball, just playing the game,” Turner told the players. “Play for each other. Try to forget what’s happened for a little while. “You are the future of the program. Go out and have fun.”
Turner started two juniors, two sophomores, and a freshmen, and the team went out and played their most competitive game of the tournament, but lost to the Redskins 63-56.
The Badgers came out of the gate with energy. Despite 4 new roster players, YHS kept turnovers to a minimum. Tristan Eames scored on a 3-point play to start. Chowchilla (6-10) instilled a full-court press. It took time for the Badgers to adjust and CHS jumped to a 17-10 lead. A 3-pointer by Cannon Eames and a steal and layup by Dylan Rounsivill closed the gap to 19-15 Chowchilla at the end of the first quarter.
Prior to the start of the second period the Badgers got a huge boost from the YHS girls’ basketball program. Playing in another tournament later in the day, Head Coach Gary Blate and assistant Erik Peterson brought a vocal Badger contingent. It was a big boost for the boys’ team.
YHS came out strong in the second quarter. Cannon Eames connected on his second three-pointer. Cade Cross worked the inside and YHS was down 25-24. The Badgers stayed close and went into halftime down 33-26.
Tristan Eames and the Badgers pushed the tempo in the third. Another 3 by Cannon Eames and a 3-point play by Tristan Eames had YHS down 45-43 with 1:30 to play in the third. Chowchilla upped the pressure and went on a 7-1 run. Yosemite fought back on a 3-point play by Cross. In the end, the Badger could never get any closer than 6 down. Chowchilla came away with the win.
Cross finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Tristan and Cannon Eames scored 11 and 10 respectively. Playing the two-guard Cannon Eames hit three 3-point baskets. Tristan Eames, at point led YHS with 7 assists. Negley continued his strong contribution since being brought up from JV. He had 8 points and 5 rebounds. McLean had 6 points and 6 rebounds. Rounsivill had another solid effort off the bench scoring 5 points and leading YHS with 3 steals. Ty Peterson, another freshman brought up to varsity, had 2 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal.
“We wanted to play our best for each other,” Tristan Eames said. “We were in the game the whole way and everyone contributed.”
YHS gets crushed by Toads
The emotions of the last week finally took a toll on the Badgers as the Toads of Coalinga (5-8) defeated YHS 71-35 on Saturday. It was the final game of the tournament. Many times, Yosemite had two sophomores and three freshmen on the floor.
Coalinga jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Yosemite outscored the Toads 19-18 in the second quarter. Yosemite came out totally flat in the third quarter managing only one point. Both the first and the third periods saw the lowest production of the year for the Badgers.
Cross led YHS scorers again with 18 points. Cannon Eames hit two more three-pointers on his way to a 10 point game. Since moving up to varsity, he now has 3 straight games scoring 10 points or more. Rounsivill had another good game off the bench and scored 5 points.