The Mt. Whitney Pioneers defeat the El Diamante Miners 55-36
VISALIA – The Mt. Whitney Pioneers remain the only team in the East Yosemite League undefeated in league play after defeating the El Diamante Miners 55-36.
When only two teams in a league remain undefeated, eventually they’ll have to face each other and one will walk away with a loss on their record. The Miners may have been favored coming in, with an overall record of 13-5 but 2-0 in league, while the Pioneers had an overall record of 7-6 and equally 2-0. But it was the Pioneers who walked away with the top spot in the EYL.
“Every team can knock off any other team,” Mt. Whitney head coach Jeff Lynch said. “It’s about being prepared and giving effort for four quarters from tip off to final buzzer.”
The Pioneers tipped off the game with a high energy offense that carried over to their defense. Though the Miners were up first, the Pioneers tied the score as the buzzer for the first quarter went off. After that, they ran away with the score and the Miners couldn’t keep up.
The Miners kept pace with the Pioneers, but they just weren’t making the baskets they needed to keep up with Mt. Whitney’s score. Despite playing two tough games on Jan. 13 and 14, it wasn’t physical exhaustion holding the Miners back. According to head coach Jerome Guzman, the boys rested and only had a light practice between games. It was more of a mental block for the Miners.
“Tonight was not our best performance as a basketball team,” Guzman said. “Tonight was an off night.”
The Miners played a full press defense in the second half, but the Pioneers were more physical on offense. The teams were well matched for size and the Pioneers had little trouble shoving their way through the Miners’ defense. At the end of the third quarter they were up by 13 and in the fourth they stretched their lead to nearly 20 points.
Last year the Pioneers finished first in the West Yosemite League, barely losing to Lemoore and Redwood just before playoffs, but according to Lynch, they don’t think about last season. Nine of the twelve players from last season graduated, so they have a new group with three freshmen playing significant minutes.
Senior Dominic Pineda was the leading scorer with 14 points against El Diamante and is an important player on both offense and defense for the Pioneers. Captain Jonah Marquez put up nine points for the Pioneers and played hard on defense, boxing out the Miners and keeping them from making their shots.
“I gotta give it up to Mt. Whitney, they played awesome,” Guzman said. “They’re a really good team and if you don’t come prepared, it could be a bad day.”
The Miners will take a day to rest and reset before their next game. They’ll have to get their mentality back in order before they face Porterville on Jan. 19. Lucky for them, they’ll have the home court advantage.
The Pioneers will look to keep their winning record when they face Monache on Jan. 19. El Diamante defeated Monache on Jan. 13, but in the EYL this year, anything is possible, so the Pioneers will be working hard to prepare.
“Our goal is to go 1-0 every day,” Lynch said.