Mustang boys trample Hawks in cross-town basketball rivalry matchup

Tulare Western out-plays Mission Oak on both sides of the court en route to 66-55 victory

TULARE – Tulare Western beat their rival Mission Oak in dominant fashion on Thursday Feb. 4. This league game started off close, but Western found their footing early and kept going from there, ending in a 66-55 Mustang victory.

The Tulare Western Mustangs hosted the Mission Oak Hawks in a high-energy, fast-paced, battle between two Tulare teams. The matchup started off slow after Mission Oak won the tip and got nothing. From there the teams traded missed shots until Mission Oak senior, Anthony Ledesma, drained a 3-pointer to give the Hawks the first score of the game. The energy was high and both sidelines traded chants. Mission Oak had momentum even with just a 3-point lead.

Tulare Western had started slow, but as the game progressed they were picking up the pace. Spearheaded by freshman guard, Malachi Ficher, Tulare Western capped off the first quarter up 21-11 despite being down by 7 at first. Ficher had 23 points in the first half alone and was seemingly automatic from the 3-point line. 

Offense wasn’t the only driving force behind Western though. A pressure-packed Mustang defense combined with dominance in the paint kept Western ahead. It looked like every single player was crashing the boards and out-muscling nearby Hawks. Mission Oak tried to sink deep shots or force quick drives to the basket, but Western shut everything down. They were intercepting passes, blocking back-to-back shots, and applying pressure everywhere. The Mustangs went into half with a commanding 39-25 lead.

Western came back right where they left off in the second half. They were relentless in the paint and continued to out-rebound Mission Oak. The Mustangs were also denying everything and got a hand on almost every close shot. Unfortunately, the Hawks began to pick it up on defense too. A scrappy Mission Oak defense that forced several steals was starting to become an issue in the third quarter. The deep shots weren’t landing and it was difficult to move the ball. On top of this Mission Oak was picking it up on offense and hitting shots that they hadn’t previously.

Mission Oak was starting to close in during the fourth quarter. The Hawks were landing their 3-pointers and getting multiple put-back layups. Western was trying to do too much and their mistakes on offense were starting to pay. The game was moving quickly and soon Western only had a four point lead. Despite the rising intensity the Mustangs stayed calm and in the final minutes they began to get it back on offense. Good passes, strong drives and multiple free throws brought back a strong lead and sent the Hawks rushing to score. There just wasn’t enough time left and Western took the 11-point victory.

“In those last couple minutes we had confidence that we were gonna pull it off,” Tulare Western coach Keith Rickard said. 

Both teams squared off again two days later, but not much had changed other than the score. Instead of scoring 66 points, Western scored 65. Mission Oak actually performed worse on the scoreboard scoring six points less than the Thursday game going down from 55 point to 49. 

Tulare Western will take on Monache on Wednesday, Feb. 9.for their second to last game of the season.

Start typing and press Enter to search