BASKETBALL: Miners net first win in 2022-23 season

The El Diamante Miners win their first game of the season against the Mission Oak Hawks by a 18 point margin

TULARE – The El Diamante girls basketball team beat Mission Oak 69-51 in their first game of the season.

After a second-round elimination from the playoffs last year, many of the El Diamante seniors are returning this season with a “vengeance” according to their head coach. The Miners pulled ahead quickly in the first period and stayed ahead throughout the game, dominating possession of the ball. They were only up by five points after the first period, but by the third they were up by 21. They finished off with a 69-51 win.

“My seniors, they just want it this year,” El Diamante head coach Jessica Cervantes said. “All 12 [players] are all in so it’s nice to have everybody on the same page with the seniors.”

The Miners made it tough for the Hawks to keep possession of the ball. Every time the Hawks would get a breakaway, the Miners seemed to be there to take it right back. Sophomore Rian Jones-Dillihunt’s speed and ball-handling skills stood out in particular as she went up against older players on the Hawks. Although she’s a younger player, Jones-Dillihunt showed command of the court on both offense and defense, proving herself to be a player to watch this season.

Cervantes highlighted her captain, senior Sofia Perez, not just for her skills on the court, but her leadership off the court. Perez plays center, anchoring the team beneath the basket and holding strong on defense while pressing the offense. But she also encourages her teammates and shows respect to her opponents, high fiving every teammate as they came off the court for a timeout and helping a Mission Oak player to her feet after she was knocked down.

“We’re just working on defense because defense wins championships,” Cervantes said.

The Miners will play in the Redwood Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 17. They are scheduled to face Strathmore, Washington Union and Buchanan.

While the Miners played exceptionally, the Hawks gave a strong effort for a comeback in the fourth period. They stayed aggressive to the end, when lesser teams may have given up the effort.

Half of the Hawks’ starters were on the bench for the entire game between following transfer protocols and injuries. But the players on the court still played with heart. Senior Hannah Thompson hustled up and down the court and displayed deft control of the ball throughout the game. She went head-to-head with Jones-Dillihunt for most of the second half.

“There’s a core of them that are pretty good,” Mission Oak head coach David Caetano said. “Colleges are looking at the seniors I have and there are three more [juniors] that I think could play at the next level.”

Though the Hawks ended up losing the game, they shouldn’t be discounted for the season. As they go through non-league play, they’ll tighten their game for league play and look to make the playoffs and see how far they can go. The Hawks will travel to face Central Valley Christian on Nov. 17.

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