Gregg Dodderidge

Varsity boys could break league title drought

Yosemite High School girls varsity basketball coach Gary Blate was honored at a surprise dinner Jan. 13 at El Cid’s Mexican Cusine Restaurant in Oakhurst to recognize him for his 500th high school career basketball win. On hand for the dinner were former Badger standouts, from left, Sydneee Fipps (class of 2011), Katie Menton (2007) and Ashley Stearns (2006).
Yosemite High School girls varsity basketball coach Gary Blate was honored at a surprise dinner Jan. 13 at El Cid’s Mexican Cusine Restaurant in Oakhurst to recognize him for his 500th high school career basketball win. On hand for the dinner were former Badger standouts, from left, Sydneee Fipps (class of 2011), Katie Menton (2007) and Ashley Stearns (2006). Special to Sierra Star

The Yosemite High varsity boys basketball team (11-7, 2-0 North Sequoia League) coached by Aaron Eames and assistant Erik Peterson have a legitimate shot at a league title this year, a feat that has not been accomplished since 1999. That is because Yosemite has played in the same league as Washington Union, perhaps one of the best basketball programs in Central Section history.

Standing in the way is Kerman. The Lions (14-7, 3-0 NSL) won the league title last season going 10-0. To date, the Lions have won 6 straight and are scoring nearly 70 points a game during that streak.

Kerman is led by one of the best players in the Valley, 6-foot-2 senior forward David Rico, who is averaging 24 points (No. 3 in the Central Section), 12 rebounds, 4 steals (No. 3), and 3.4 assists per game.

Like YHS the Lions have a dominant brother combination. Junior Daniel Rico is the second leading scorer and rebounder on the Lions at 9.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. can win on both ends of the floor. The Lions are well coached and average 65 points, 46 rebounds and 15 steals a game.

Yosemite counters with the Eames brothers. Shooting guard Cannon Eames is averaging 21.4 points (No. 7 in the Central Section), 5.3 rebounds and 3 steals per game. Cannon leads YHS with 40 3-point shots.

Point guard Tristan Eames is averaging nearly 16 points per game. Together, this is one of the best scoring backcourts in Yosemite history.

Senior power forward Peter McLean and junior center Ben Negley are strong under the basket. They are the best interior combination in the league and could be the difference in winning a title for Yosemite. McLean is having a great senior season scoring 10.2 points and pulling down 12 rebounds per game. Negley is averaging 9.4 points and 10.4 rebounds.

The Badgers will need help from their bench. Junior sharp-shooter Brian Mularkey sustained a season-ending knee injury. Starting forward Trevor Peter only scores 3.5 points per game but is averaging 5 boards and 2 steals. Senior forward Alex Williams is a capable back-up at center and junior forward Noah Allen can hit from long range.

Yosemite has missed junior forward Ty Peterson this season after sustaining a thigh injury in football. He is a shut-down defender and a capable ball handler as well as a floor leader.

Yosemite has won three straight and is playing some of the best basketball of the season. YHS is scoring 62 points per game along with 40 rebounds. The Badgers have to distribute the ball as the team averages only 7.6 assists per game.

If Yosemite can split games with Kerman and win out the rest of the NSL, then the 17-year title drought could be broken.

Current NSL standings: Kerman (14-7, 3-0 NSL); YHS (11-7, 2-0); Washington Union (5-16, 1-1); Liberty (1-10, 1-2); Sierra (4-10, 1-2); Chowchilla (2-14, 1-2).

JV Boys are 13-4

The JV team (13-4, 2-0 NSL), co-coached by brothers Andy and Charlie Medley, both former Badger basketball standouts, is fun to watch.

The team is strong in the paint and scores 60 points per game. YHS is led by super-soph power forward Tyler Matyshock who is averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Forward Christian Rold also averages nearly a double-double in points and rebounds a game and may be the best YHS defender.

The backcourt is also strong and shooting guard Paul Antonis has been lights-out from the perimeter. In his last two games against Mariposa and Liberty, he’s hit 11 3-point shots.

and gets others involved and is a solid defender. Pierce is a work in progress scoring and gets most points on drives. Even when he struggles to score Pierce never waivers from pushing his team to be their best.

If you haven’t been to a Yosemite High basketball game, boys or girls, JV or varsity, you are missing out.

Congrats to Coach Blate

Close to 100 people gathered last week at Oakhurst’s El Cid Mexican Cuisine Restaurant to surprise Yosemite High girls varsity basketball coach Gary Blate and honor him for reaching a big milestone in his 31 year high school coaching career - 500 wins - a milestone he reached Jan. 13 with the Badger’s 48-33 league win over Sierra.

Those wins have come from 14 and a half years as the Badger’s girls coach, four years as the boys varsity coach and 12 years as a girls varsity coach as Loara High in Anaheim.

When he entered the banquet room at the restaurant, he was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause.

Since taking over the girls helm in the 2002-2003 season, Blate’s teams have won or shared an incredible 12 league titles, including 11 consecutive. Blate has led the YHS girls to the playoffs in all his 14 years.

On Dec. 30, a 47-24 win over Hoover High gave Blate his 300th was as cach of the Lady Badgers, joining the “Top 10” list of girls coaches in the Central Section with 300 wins.

There are 27 high school girls coaches in the state with 500 or more wins.

Blate also owns a boys title in the Central Sequoia League in 1998-1999. By the way it was the last season the YHS boys have won a league basketball title.

This year’s team is currently 11-10 and is 2-0 in the North Sequoia League. This from a team made up of 6 sophomores, 3 juniors and just one senior.

A final tribute to Shania

The celebration of life for JV basketball player Shania Costella who was killed in a Jan. 6 auto accident, was held Jan. 21. The Evangelical Free Church was full of friends and family that shared tears and a lot of laughter.

Shania is now an angel but she was tough. She had all the aspects of a great leader.

I am so proud of all of Shania’s classmates, cadet corps members and friends. Virtually everyone stood in line and said their final goodbye to Shania during the open casket viewing. If you haven’t seen an open casket at a funeral you have no idea how hard that is. That didn’t deter her friends - I didn’t have the courage to do it but they did.

It was moving to see the boys JV and girls varsity point guards Jaeden Pierce and Lilly Graffigna standing next to each other during the viewing of Shania. There is something special about playing point guard. You are the leader and the coach on the floor. Jaeden and Lilly play like Shania and know how to lead. They are both big reasons their teams are having good seasons. Shania has to be smiling from above.