Despite coming off a tough tournament in Kingsburg where they went 1-3, the Yosemite High basketball team (8-5) felt confident last week entering the 10th Annual Hawk Classic Tournament at Liberty High.
YHS beat Dos Palos 48-27, Firebaugh 62-33, and mountain rival Minarets 52-35, before falling short in the fourth quarter losing to Tranquility 64-53 in the title game.
“We had a good turnaround from the Kingsburg Tournament,” Coach Aaron Eames said. “We wanted to win this tournament and felt we had a great shot. We just came up short in the end.”
The Dec. 17 - 10 tournament consisted of six teams in two brackets, with bracket winners determined Saturday morning. YHS and Tranquility played on five hours rest as a result.
“We won’t offer any excuses,” Eames said. “We have high expectations as a team. Our goal was to win this tournament. We played four games in three days. I’m sure the kids were tired, but so was the other team. This will only make us better ... We are a young squad with only one senior. We are learning how to win and close out games.Overall I am happy how we played in this tournament.”
Yosemite had a strong start Thursday against old Central Sequoia League foe Dos Palos. The Badgers jumped out to a 19-5 lead in the first quarter, with forward Peter McLean leading the way with eight points that ignited a 14-0 Badger run. Dos Palos (2-7) came back in the second quarter but were still down 26-17 at halftime.
Yosemite poured it on in the second half, outscoring Dos Palos 20-10 on the way to the blowout win. McLean had his finest game as a Badger, scoring a game high 20 points and 16 rebounds. The Badgers dominated the inside out-rebounding the Broncos 36-24. Center Kade Cross scored 11 points and added five rebounds.
Ben Negley had 11 rebounds and three points.
The Badgers did all this without a 3-point shot and shooting only 8-18 from the free-throw line.
Defeating Firebaugh and Minarets
Yosemite continued its strong defensive showing defeating Firebaugh 62-33. After the first quarter with YHS leading 18-13, the Badger defense held the Eagles (2-8) to just 20 points the rest of the game.
Cross led the Badgers with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Tristan Eames added 11 points and a season-high seven assists. Forward and defensive specialist Alex Williams had a season-high 10 points with two rebounds.
McLean hit for 8 points and had 8 rebounds. Cannon Eames had 7 points and a season-high 6 steals. Negley added 2 points and 2 steals.
In a game both teams pointed to, Yosemite had a hard-fought 52-35 win against Mountain Area rival Minarets (4-6).
Although YHS led from start to finish, the game was very physical, and at times ugly. There were two technical fouls and 19 fouls total in the second half alone.
“That was fun,” said Badger point guard Tristan Eames. “We played hard and so did they. Yeah, it got a little heated, but we have all played against each other for so long, stuff like that happens. It was a great game to be a part of for sure.”
Eames had maybe his best game as a varsity starter leading the Badgers with 16 points and four assists. Eames jump-started the Badgers scoring seven quick points, giving the Badgers an 18-9 first quarter lead. Most of Eames points were in the paint as he drove the lane early and often.
While Yosemite dominated from the perimeter, Mustang center Mason Ellis took over the paint. Ellis had a game high 18 points and 14 rebounds. Ellis outscored the entire Badger front line of Negley, Cross, and McLean who had a combined 14 points. Ellis, a senior and a four-year starter, had one of his best performances of the year.
“Mason had a great game,” said Mustang head coach Paul Varner. “We had too many turnovers and didn’t have our best night shooting. It was a tough, physical game for sure.”
Yosemite maintained their lead during a poor-shooting third quarter by both teams after leading 30-18 at halftime. A Ty Peterson steal and pass to Alex Williams gave YHS a 34-19 lead. The Mustangs fought back but couldn’t close the gap.
The game intensified in the fourth quarter, and the Mustangs
were forced to foul but YHS was solid from the charity stripe down the stretch. A breakaway dunk by Cross capped off an emotional and hard played contest by both teams.
The Mustangs will get another shot at the Badgers at home Jan. 13.
Title game loss
Playing their second game in five hours, the Badgers fell short to Tranquility 64-53. The game was close until the last three minutes where the Tigers (7-3) pulled away. Overall, there were 11 lead changes.
After an emotionally draining win against Minarets, the Badgers took on a Tiger squad that had tournament victories over Minarets 70-56, Liberty 65-56, and Firebaugh 64-45. The high scoring Tigers average 63 points a game.
“It was a battle all the way,” head coach Aaron Eames said. “We kept it close. Everyone contributed, but they were able to pull away at the end.”
The Tigers were led by tournament MVP Noel Iniguez, who scored a game-high 29 points, along with 18 from Raymundo Ayala.
Yosemite took an early 18-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers outscored YHS 15-11 in the second quarter and went into halftime tied 29-29. Yosemite jumped out to a 32-29 lead but Ayala and Iniguez hit key 3-pointers. The 3rd quarter ended in a 40-40 tie.
With three minutes to go, the Tigers pulled away. Badger turnovers and 3-pointers by Iniguez and Ayala sealed the deal. The Tigers outscored YHS 14-5 that quarter to take home the Hawk Classic title.
Cross led YHS with 12 points and had a season-high seven blocked shots. Tristan Eames added 11 points, three steals, and a team-high five assists. Cannon Eames scored 8 points including two 3-pointers.Negley had 5 points and led the Badgers with 6 rebounds.
Yosemite will get a chance for redemption as Tranquility will play the Badgers in their home opener on Jan. 7. The team plays at 7 p.m. at Minarets on Jan. 13. The first league game is at home against Sierra on Jan. 15.