BASKETBALL: Panthers knock Miners out of EYL top spot

The Porterville Panthers secure first place in the East Yosemite League after beating the El Diamante Miners

PORTERVILLE – The Porterville Panthers defeat the El Diamante Miners with a score of 46-42 to break the tie for first place in the EYL standings.

The Panthers and the Miners were tied for first place in the EYL standings with identical 6-2 records ahead of their game against each other on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Both teams hoped to knock the other out of first place in order to hold it for themselves. The rivalry spawned an aggressive, physical game of basketball in which both teams traded points and remained neck-and-neck for the entire game. As time on the clock ticked away in the fourth quarter, the Panthers held onto a 46-42 lead and first place in the EYL.

“This reorganized league, the EYL with the four Visalia schools, it would be really nice to win that league title and make five in a row for us,” Porterville head coach Lance Wallace said. “It’s something we’ve set our eyes on from the beginning of the season.”

At the end of the third quarter, the Miners were only down by three points. They retained their offensive energy, hoping to make a comeback, but the Panther defense was prepared to stop them. But as the Panthers threw themselves into defensive efforts, the scoring slowed on both sides. The Miners couldn’t seem to make up the few points they needed to tie or overtake the Panthers.

The Panthers were led by senior Andrew Moody, who scored 19 points for Porterville. He scored 11 of those points in the third quarter alone, to help the Panthers pull ahead after the half. His offensive efforts in the second half brought the energy the Panthers needed to stay ahead through the end of the game.

“If Andrew gets a clean look at the basket, there’s a good chance it goes in,” Wallace said. “I’m glad the season is going the way it is because he works harder than anyone else.”

While Moody was the leading scorer for the Panthers, he was not the top scorer in the game. El Diamante’s Santana Guijarro, a junior, scored 23 of the Miners’ 42 points. He came out fast in the first quarter, putting up 11 of the 15 points the Miners’ scored in that quarter. The Panthers had been up by a few baskets in the early part of the first, but once Guijarro started putting the ball in the net, the rest of the Miners followed.

“[Guijarro] has been growing every single day at practice,” El Diamante head coach Jerome Guzman said. “Not just at basketball but becoming a leader. He leaves it all on the court and I think that’s infectious to all the guys.”

The Miners fell out of first place after losing to the Panthers, but taking second place in the EYL is no easy feat. It is a competitive league that could have been won by any team at any point. No team remains undefeated at this point in the season. The Miners will head into playoffs with a chance to win a valley championship. They will have their senior night on Feb. 10 when they face Golden West at home, then brackets will be released on Feb. 11.

With the Panthers’ win over El Diamante, they have moved into first place outright in the EYL. If they can defeat their cross-town rivals, the Monache Marauders, in their final league game on Feb. 10, they will be EYL champions for the fifth year in a row. The Panthers will also be moving on to playoffs, hoping to add a valley championship to their list of accomplishments this season.

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