The Minarets Mustangs boys basketball team (2-9, 1-0 West Sequoia League) opened league play Jan. 16, with a 63-44 win over Fresno Christian (8-8, 0-1).
Fresno Christian led after the first quarter, 14-12, and battled throughout the game. Going to the leading, 34-29, the Mustangs pulled away slowly with pressure defense and minimal turnovers. The Mustangs had just 11 turnover in the game, a vast improvement from the 20+ the team has been averaging.
Playing the first quarter without junior Mason Ellis, his impact was felt immediately as he entered the game beginning the 2nd period. The Mustangs slowly pulled away with the junior leading the way. His thundering Slam Dunk brought the crowd to their feet in the opening minutes of the 3rd period. It was a team effort as each player had contributions at key moments in the game. Junior Kaleb Fausone delighted the crowd with drives to the basket time and time again. Senior Bubba Ward had several key steals as the Mustangs notched their first league win. From the starting five to the last man off the bench, it basketball as it should be, each played contributing, possibly the Mustangs best team effort on the year.
"Proud of the effort our young men put into tonight, and hopefully this is a precursor for the rest of league play. It good to start off and see the tenacity of our boys and never give up." said Coach Paul Varner. The team has been coming up just a bit short all season as they have battled through tough losses. The Mustangs struggle at the free throw line has cost them several wins on the young season. The team shot nearly 50% from the stripe against the Eagles.
They will need to play their best game of the season as they take on league favorite Caruthers, Jan 20th. The Blue Raiders are a well balanced team that is a threat from under the hoop to outside the 3point arc. Coming in with a 3 game win streak, the Blue Raiders are averaging 55 points a contest compared to the Mustangs 44. The edge goes to Caruthers in the "Common Opponents Played" category, with the Blue Raiders recording wins against both teams the squads have played, Reedley and Firebaugh, but that was with a Mustang team searching for chemistry. With the win against the Eagle the team is playing as a unit for the first time and should give the Blue Raiders everything they can handle.
Minarets will host the Parlier Panthers Jan 23rd, in a game that should be an easy win for the Mustangs, the Panthers are struggling at 3-15 and are being out scored 2 to 1 in their games. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30. The Mustangs JV squad won 63-44 against Fresno Christian, the team is coached by Ron Johnson.