Boys Basketball: Cougars end Pioneers playoff run

Mt. Whitney loses at home to Rancho Cucamonga in the first round of the Division II State Playoffs

VISALIA – Mt. Whitney lost just its second home game of the year March 1, unfortunately it came in the opening round of the Division II boys basketball state championships.

The Pioneers playoff run came to an end when Mt. Whitney lost to the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars 61-57, a rare sight this season for the Pioneers’ home crowd. Mt. Whitney ends the season with a 30-3 record, a West Yosemite League title, a Valley Title, a rare appearance in the state championship bracket, and hosting a state playoff game.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Brandon Aguirre scored his team’s first points of the game and led the Cougars with 23 points as he and teammate Shadale Knight attacked the Pioneers defense from behind the arc. The two helped the Cougars extend their 3-point lead in the first quarter to 10 by halftime. 

The Pioneers ended the first half trailing 39-27 but came out in the third quarter with an increased intensity on defense. Both teams were held to just 9 points in the third quarter before Mt. Whitney outshot Ranch Cucamonga 21-13 in the fourth quarter. Joey Saavedra and Carter Glick pushed the Pioneers offense forward with back to back plays. Keith Bailey Jr. wreaked havoc on Rancho Cucamonga in the second half of the game stealing the ball any chance he could get. 

As desperation set in for Mt. Whitney in the final quarter, the game became foul heavy on both sides, causing some commotion on the court and in the stands. The Cougars’ Aaron Glass and Brandon Aguirre put the nail in the coffin, sinking three clutch free throws between them in the final minutes of the game, giving Rancho Cucamonga a 61-57 victory. 

Mt. Whitney Principal Robert Aguilar the school was proud the team never gave up against the Cougars and praised the team for their historic accomplishments this season.

“No Mt.Whitney basketball team has ever won at least 30 games in a season or won any sort of section title in almost 20 years,” Aguilar said. “The fact that they made it to this game at all was impressive enough to the team and their school.

No. 13 Rancho Cucamonga advances to the second round of the Southern Division State Finals -and took down the fifth seeded Bakersfield Christian Eagles, 67-65. The Cougars made it all the way to the Southern California semifinals where they eventually lost to the top seeded Foothill Knights of Santa Ana, 69-64. The Knights played host to the Los Altos Conquerors in Santa Ana on March 8. The game ended before press time.

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