By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
EXETER – Head coach Gary Hylton has been a mainstay basketball coach for the Exeter Monarchs for the past 10 seasons. Last week, he won his final two home games in an effort to strengthen their portfolio for the post season. One of those wins included a stunning 61-44 upset over first place Selma on Feb. 6.
“We are all like a family,” Hylton said. “I feel like the program is in good shape for the next person to take it over, but we are not finished yet.”
In the last six seasons, the Exeter Monarchs (19-9, 6-3) had only defeated the Selma Bears one time in Central Sequoia League play. It came in 2016 by a score of 67-65. Last Tuesday, however, Exeter pulled ahead by 10 points, 33-23, at halftime and never looked back. While Tiffany Campbell tied Allison Vargas for team-leading points, each with 13, it was Campbell who had the career night. From the beyond the arc, she went 3-4.
“The first time we faced them, we really thought we could beat them at home,” Hylton said. “Campbell played the game of her life.”
Selma (19-9, 7-2) had pretty much shutdown Exeter’s Kenedi Baxter-Jones by playing what is known as a box and one. It is a hybrid defense that combines a single person playing man-on-man, and the rest of the defense in a zone. While Jones was only able to score six points, it opened up other passing lanes to wide open teammates.
Exeter’s Chloe Welch was on the receiving end of most of those passes. She attempted 18 double shots, but only made three.
“Other people stepped up and made shots for us in that game, and that is what we needed to do,” Hylton said.
Two days later the Monarchs, with seven seniors playing their final regular season home game, defeated the Central Valley Christian Cavaliers 66-24. One of those seniors was Vargas, who scored 17 points.
“We knew we had to come out and take care of business, and that is what I think we did,” Vargas said.
Apart from Vargas, the Monarchs had six players score in double digits. Jones led every player on the court with 30 points.
The competition in the game may not have been in the back of Hylton’s mind, but how his players were going to handle the emotion of senior night was. By the end of the third quarter, Exeter had already put the game away 59-15.
“I felt like we kept good control of our composure,” Hylton said.
Despite leaving Exeter is at the end of the season, Hylton isn’t losing site of the fact there is still basketball left to be played. However, he is adamant that there is still more basketball to be played. Tonight the Monarchs travel to play the Dinuba Emperors at 7:30 p.m. If the Monarchs get a win, that means they will at least finish in second place. There is a chance that Exeter could share the CSL title, if the Bears lose to the Kingsburg Vikings.