Girls Basketball: Rangers host tournament to open season

Redwood went 1-2 during their tournament while El Diamante went 3-1

By Jermaine Johnson II

VISALIA – It was a fight to the  finish last week during the 29th Annual Visalia Tipoff Classic, hosted by Redwood.

 Eight squads were in attendance to open their season with either their first or second game. Redwood went 1-2 in the tournament and are 2-2 on the young season. El Diamante had a strong showing as they won two of their three games. 

Redwood opened the tournament with a dominant 70-26 win over Farmersville. Their full court press defense was too much for the Aztecs as the Rangers were able to score often in transition. They are being coached by Gary Hylton who is in his first year with the team. He spent 10 seasons as the head coach of the Exeter varsity girls basketball team before being an assistant at Golden West last season. The game against Farmersville showcased what he believes will be the team’s identity this season.  

“Our games are going to be a lot of running, it’s all about defense and transition for us,” Hylton said. “These girls have some toughness and grit that you just can’t teach or coach.”

Those attributes were on display during the team’s first game of the season at Monache. The Rangers were down 16-4 in the first quarter before coming back to win by 3 points. They lost their other two games of the tournament to Buchanan 74-23 and to Bullard 55-49. 

The team is led by their four captains who were chosen by the players: juniors Krissy Hetherington, Natalie Robles, and Katelynn Alvarez, plus senior Janessa Haro. The juniors are all three-year varsity players while Haro is in her fourth year. 

Jessica Cervantes is head coach of El Diamante and is in her third season with the team. Although they are still rebuilding, she has led them to a strong 3-1 start to the season after a rocky 2018 where they finished 10-17. 

“This year we have started out really strong but we are still kind of young in terms of playing on varsity,” Cervantes said. 

After losing to Tulare Union by 19 points in the season opener last season, they got the victory this year by 10 points. They dropped the first game of the tournament 54-28 to Bullard, but they won their next two. They defeated Orosi 61-18 and Tulare Western 55-45. 

The Miners are comprised of a diverse group of players. Their team ranges from freshmen to seniors who all get playing time. They will lean heavily on senior Lacey Luna and junior Kyla Rios who are the team captains. Luna is an aggressive, team first player who inspires her teammates and they rally around her. Rios is a junior and was also a captain as a sophomore. She uses her high basketball IQ to be effective and she is a sharpshooter behind the arc. 

“Going into my third year I believe they have what it takes to contend for a league championship and make the playoffs,” said Cervantes. “I’ve been preaching to the girls to believe in themselves and once they do that then they can be unstoppable.” 

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