Boys Basketball: Monache falls to Mustangs, will face Porterville for EYL crown

Marauders lose chance to share league title in game against Tulare Western, now it’s all or nothing in matchup against Porterville 

By Jermaine Johnson II 

TULARE – For a few weeks now Monache has been in control of their journey to the top of the East Yosemite League. If they had defeated Tulare Western last Friday, they would have locked up a share of the trophy regardless of what happens in their final game. 

Since they lost 72-63 to the Mustangs, they are now tied at 7-2 with Porterville and the two will compete in a winner take all battle tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. 

It was senior night for Tulare Western and they were clearly playing with energy and momentum. They led 19-14 after the first period as both teams were playing at a fast pace early on. Then came an offensive explosion from the Mustangs. They seemingly could not miss, specifically junior Mikey Ficher. He did his best impression of NBA star Stephen Curry as he continuously pulled up for three-pointers while being several feet behind the line.

“We knew he was capable of that and we tried to contain him but he was just making everything,” Monache head coach Herb Abiog said. “When he’s making shots from 5-10 feet beyond the arc, what can you do about that?”

The Mustangs outscored the Marauders 24-13 in the second quarter. The only thing that was killing their momentum were self-inflicted errors such as turnovers on bad passes. Senior Jesse Freeman played a big role in his team’s high scoring period. He was fouled on a fast break and sank both free throws to give the Mustangs a 10-point lead. He also knocked down an unbalanced 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer which put his team up 43-27. 

The break didn’t do much to slow down Ficher’s hot hand. He opened the third quarter with another deep 3-pointer to give his team a 19-point lead. The Mustangs complicated their stellar shooting with an all-around energetic effort in other facets of the game. They were winning the hustle balls while forcing bad shots and turnovers. Their lead got all the way up to 25 points before Monache made some key adjustments. They switched from man-to-man to a zone defense which helped them cut into the lead. They knocked down a 3-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer and then outscored the Mustangs 21-12 in the final period. Unfortunately for them, the damage had already been done. 

This was a strong win for Tulare Western, but it was bitter-sweet. In the prior game, they fell 89-74 to Mission Oak. The Hawks had three different players score over 20 points, and they scored a whopping 31 second-chance points.

“It shoots you in the foot when you give up that many second-chance points, and with the guys that were shooting well then that is a recipe for disaster,” Tulare Western head coach Keith Rickard said.

If they would have won that game, the Mustangs would currently be tied at 7-2 with Porterville and Monache. They could have won their final regular season game against Tulare Union and had a piece of the trophy.

For the Marauders, Abiog believes that this final game will be just as intense as their 44-42 win over the Panthers three weeks ago. He is confident that his team will do well if they can keep their composure and control their emotions.

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