El Diamante beats Hoover 63-55 in opening playoff game, but falls to Caruthers Blue Raiders in quarterfinals
VISALIA – El Diamante trailed Hoover for most of their opening round playoff game but three underclassmen came through in the clutch to not only pull off a comeback win, but dominate their opponent in the fourth quarter.
On Feb. 16, the El Diamante Miners outscored the Hoover Patriots 41-27 in the second half of the first round of the Division III playoffs for a 63-55 win. Miners head coach Jessica Cervantes said her captains led the comeback victory on both sides of the ball despite the Mineral getting a slow start in the game.
“What I think sparked the change in my girls was the talk I gave them about all of us knowing that we didn’t want this to be our last game of the season,” coach Cerventes said. “They showed up when it mattered and when it counted.”
The Miners missed a lot of shots and turned over the ball to the Patriots several times in the first quarter thanks to Hoover’s pressure defense. At one point in the first half, El Diamante was unable to get the ball past halfcourt without turning it over as Hoover forced El Diamante’s ball handlers out of bounds or into mistakes. The second quarter was more of the same for El Diamante which trailed Hoover by six pints heading into halftime with a score of 28-22.
After the pep talk from the head coach Jessica Cerventes, the Miners picked up their game. Rian Jones-Dillihunt was able to get the Miners’ offense going with a couple of layups in the paint, and even getting some steals defensively but the game remained an uphill climb for El Diamante but three players emerged as leaders on the underclassman starting lineup.
Anjolie Cibrian had the hot hand in the second half for the Miners knocking down four three-pointers from beyond the arc on her way to team leading 16 points. With each swoosh came huge cheers from the student section as the home crowd helped build momentum for the Miners.
Other Miners, such as Kiersten Shade, began to feel their game as well. Shade pulled down six rebounds, blocked a shot and was El Diamante’s second leading scorer with 13 points, all while being knocked around and to the ground by Hoover.
“We haven’t really been far in the playoffs, so to be in the playoffs and try to make history is what’s really driving us right now as a team,” Shade said after the game.
Coach Cervantes said the plan was to use Shade’s toughness to wear out the Patriots on the boards.
“I told Kiersten that her job for today’s game was to get as many rebounds, and to take all the hits from the opposing team,” said Cerventes.
Reyna Soto was the other girl who Cervantes praised after the victory. Soto put pressure on both the Patriots’ offense and defense by scoring nine points on drives to the basket and timely jumpers and had two steals.
After the win, El Diamante traveled to Caruthers to take on the top-seeded Blue Raiders. Caruthers cut down the Miners 76-18. Carters went up quickly 26-8 in the first quarter and built up a 72-15 lead by the fourth quarter. The Blue Raiders advance to the Division III semifinals where they will host No. 4 McFarland today, Feb. 23.