Tulare Western gets their second league win after in a nail-biting 40-38 game
TULARE – In their first of two meetings Tulare Western and Monache put fans on the edge of their seats. Their back-and-forth league game had hearts racing, and even with key players out due to COVID it ultimately ended in Western scraping by with a two-point victory.
On Thursday Jan. 20, an East Yosemite league matchup between the Tulare Western Mustangs and Monache Marauders tipped off. The Marauders got off to a hot start early when senior Kaleb Salazar drained two three-pointers giving Monache the lead right away. From there it became a game of turnovers and rebounds. Missed shots and stolen passes had possession of the ball changing rapidly.
The lead was traded often for most of the first half. That was until the end of the second quarter when Monache started heating up and went on a blazing 10-0 run. Western was able to put up a couple points, but Monache was pulling away heading into half up 23-16.
Western came back from halftime ready to fight. After scoring nine straight points momentum had shifted. Mustang seniors, Tim Robello and Levi Villapudua, were putting in the work out-rebounding Monache on both sides of the floor. Fast breaks and free throws also played a role in the second half success.
Heading into the fourth quarter it was anyone’s game. Monache was up 30-27 but Western was finding their footing. Fouls from both teams were becoming an issue as both sides were trying to do anything to stop the other from scoring. A stifling Tulare defense led by junior Carson Lopes worked to keep Monache in check as the game stayed close.
In the final minutes it was a 36-35 game in favor of Monache. Western was looking for anything to put themselves ahead. With two minutes to go Tim Robello sunk a three-point shot to give Western a two-point lead. Quickly though, the game was tied up again as Monache scored a late layup. Tulare was looking for any opportunity to retake the lead and found it when Robello was sent to the line with only 12 seconds left. Despite the pressure, he landed both shots and this tough Western defense prevented Monache from even attempting a late shot.
This game meant a lot for a team that has been struggling with COVID-19. “Those guys have been working hard and even with COVID having six guys out and two starters, those guys that are here worked their tails off and it was good to get a win,” Tulare Western coach Keith Rickard said.
Western will look to continue their winning streak against rival Tulare Union tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 26. They also hope to have the full team back together as league play starts heating up. Monache will attempt to get back in the win column as they square off against Porterville on Wednesday as well.