BASKETBALL: Miners carry momentum into league

The El Diamante Miners tip off league play in the East Yosemite League with a 67-52 victory over the Redwood Rangers

VISALIA – The El Diamante girls’ basketball team finished non-league play with a 13-1 overall record. After their first game against Redwood, their record in league play is 1-0.

After playing some tough teams in non-league play and only losing once (in a tournament), the El Diamante Miners began league play as a strong contender for the top spot. After a slow start in the first half, the Miners hit their stride in the third quarter and took the lead over the Rangers before finishing the game with a score of 67-52.

“Anytime we play Redwood we expect a close, good, competitive game with them,” El Diamante head coach Jessica Cervantes said.

The game started slowly for the Miners, but according to Cervantes, that’s normal. El Diamante dominated possession of the ball, but struggled to make the shots they took. The Miners grabbed the rebounds on both sides of the court. The Rangers would only get one shot per possession, but the Miners took multiple shots per possession. Their only problem was making them. At the end of the first, both teams were tied at 14.

The Miners gained momentum in the second, but the Rangers still kept up. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Miners began to run away with the score. At the half, El Diamante was up 34-27, but by the end of the third, they were up 59-39. While the Rangers played beautifully, setting up their shots and making their plays, the Miners played faster and with more tenacity.

“We are a second half team,” Cervantes said. “We knew that they would pick it up in the third quarter. We call the third quarter our quarter.”

El Diamante had an impressive stat sheet in the third quarter. They scored 22 points in the third quarter while Redwood only scored 13. It was their highest scoring quarter with four three-pointers and six free throws. They scored more points from outside the three point line than inside of it (including free throws).

Though she didn’t score a single point in the third quarter, the Miners’ top scorer of the game was Neveah Creason. She scored 22 points overall, including three three-pointers and five out of six free throws.

Last season, El Diamante and Redwood faced off twice. The first time, El Diamante won 49-46, but the second time, Redwood won 38-35. If the Rangers want to beat the Miners the next time they face off, they’ll have to work on protecting the ball and preventing turnovers.

“I thought we played well in the first half,” Redwood head coach Gary Hylton said. “In the first three minutes of the second half I think eight out of ten possessions were turnovers. But overall I was pleased. They’re a good team and I thought we did a good job.”

The Rangers came into league play with a 7-9 overall record. The Rangers next opponent will be the Porterville Panthers on Jan. 13.

The four Visalia public schools were moved to the East Yosemite League during the shakeup over the summer, joining Monache and Porterville. The EYL is a tough league and Porterville and Monache are tough opponents. Monache is the only school coming in with a better overall record than El Diamante. They were 16-2 in league play.

“We’ll be putting lots of pressure on our press and defense and making other teams create their own mistakes,” Cervantes said.

El Diamante will face the Monache Marauders at home on Jan. 13.

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