The Minarets Mustangs boys basketball team (5-11, 1-2 West Sequoia League) entered the second week of league play looking up as they rank in fifth place out of six teams.
Back at full strength the Mustangs were hoping to make a run at league leader Fowler (13-5, 3-0 WSL) as senior Mason Ellis, averaging 18 points a game, returned from the Blue/Grey Football game in Florida.
Also returning to the team was junior Christian Conti, adding another five points per game as the Mustangs struggled to score points with Ellis absent.
Ellis and Conti sat the first period due to missing the team’s previous two games, a move that might have cost the Mustangs a win as they fell to the Redcats 59-48.
After trailing at the end of the first period 9-2, Ellis entered the game and made an instant impact. Minarets outscored Fowler 21-13 to go to the half leading 23-22.
That would be the Mustangs best period of the game as they turned the ball over time and time again, playing a fast-paced game that was more suited for the Fowler’s style of play.
Fowler outscored Minarets 37-25 in the second half to pull away for the win. Minarets was forced to go to the foul game as the clock was running down, but Fowler hit 7-8 in the closing minutes to secure the win.
It wasn't without excitement as Minarets Coach Paul Varner’s club hit clutch shots in the final period to stay within striking distance.
Besting the Panthers
A home game against Parlier (3-10, 0-3 WSL) was just what the Mustangs needed to get back in the win column after a tough loss to Fowler.
Minarets took out their frustration on the Panthers in the first half as they went to the break with a comfortable 23-3 lead.
Coach Francisco Pena must have given a spirited halftime talk as the Panthers opened the third period outscoring the Mustangs 10-2 to climb back into the game.
By the end of the third period the Panthers had pulled to within two points, trailing 37-35 behind five 3-pointers by Albert Escutia.
In the fourth quarter, Ellis made an easy field goal in the paint, then stole an inbound pass. With a foul, the senior gave the Mustangs a 40-35 lead. Parlier battled to stay within two points for most of the final period.
The Mustangs won the game at the line as Michael Rendon’s steal turned into a foul in which the junior added a point. Kaleb Fausone's two free throws gave the Mustangs a bit of breathing room with a 45-40 lead.
After extending the lead 50-43 with three minutes remaining, the Redcats hit another 3-point basket.
Fowler was forced to go to the foul game with time running down, and it worked as the Mustangs missed four free throws in the closing minutes to keep the Panthers alive.
In the end, a shot by Ellis following a missed free throw sealed the deal 55-48 for Minarets and put them back in the win column.
Facing the Cowboys
The Mustangs have a rematch with the Riverdale Cowboys (8-7, 2-1 WSL) this week.
The Cowboys beat Minarets in December 41-36 during the Sierra Pacific Golden Bear Invitational.
The two teams are nearly identical on paper with the Mustangs surrendering six points more per game on defense. On offense, the Cowboys edge Minarets 46 to 45 on points scored per game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m..
On Friday the Mustangs travel to Fresno Christian (5-14, 1-2 WSL). Turnovers could be a deciding factor, as the Eagles beat Parlier 69-55 last week.