Needing to win one of its two remaining games for a trip into postseason play, the Minarets Mustangs (9-14, 5-5 West Sequoia League) dug themselves a hole by losing to the Riverdale Cowboys (13-9, 7-3 WSL) 64-61 on Feb. 16.
The Mustangs took a 29-24 lead into the break, but the Cowboys won the third period, outscoring Minarets 28-19 to enter the final eight minutes with a 42-38 lead. Minarets kept it close, eventually losing at the charity stripe, converting only 12 of 27 free throws (44%).
The Mustangs’ Kaleb Fausone and Mason Ellis each scored 22 points. The Mustangs struggled from the 3-point arc, hitting just 3 of 13 on the night (23%).
In a must-win situation to continue their season, the Mustangs hosted the Eagles of Fresno Christian (5-21, 1-9 WSL) Feb. 18. The Mustangs built a 42-26 lead at the half, but the Eagles came back to send the game into overtime after the teams were tied at 64-64 at the end of regulation play.
It was the first time in school history that the Mustangs played in an overtime game. Ellis took matters into his own hands scoring the Mustangs first five points in the overtime period, including a free throw to convert a 3-point play, as the Mustangs went on to win 77-64.
Ellis tied the school record for points scored in a single game with 34, shooting 69% from the floor. Ellis also converted 8 of 10 free throws, while hauling down 14 boards. Fausone added was second in scoring with 16 points on the evening, while Caanine Fausone pulled down 13 rebounds.
The win secured a slot in the CIF Central Section D-V playoffs as the No. 9 seed, and played the No. 8 seed Sierra (6-18, 3-7 North Sequoia League) Tuesday night. Results were not available at press time, but will be posted online here at www.sierrastar.com.
Sierra coach Anthony Patino's team had nine losses by five points or fewer, including a three-point overtime loss to the Badgers of Yosemite.
On the flip side, coach Paul Varner’s Minarets squad is playing perhaps their best basketball of the season. Ellis has been unstoppable down the stretch in league play, as the Mustangs forward is dominating the boards and the paint the last three weeks.
Against Fowler, Ellis scored 28, Parlier, 32, Riverdale, 22, then the latest 34-point performance against Fresno Christian.
As Ellis goes, so will the Mustangs. Capable of carrying a team, the senior did the same for the Mustangs football team.
Should the Mustangs come away with a road victory they will face No. 1 seed Kern Valley (18-2, 8-0 High Desert League) in the quarter finals Feb. 25.
Averaging 67 points per game, the Broncos team is flush with seniors and three players averaging double figures on the season.