By Gregg Dodderidge
OAKHURST — The Badger boys’ basketball program quite simply is on a roll, winning both of its North Sequoia League games last week.
On Wednesday (Jan. 29) the Badgers traveled to Sierra and defeated the Chieftains 74-46. It was a strong performance considering winning at Tollhouse is never an easy task. YHS also defeated Sierra 71-61 on Jan. 10 in Oakhurst.
On Friday the Badgers hosted the Hawks of Liberty-Madera Ranchos in a critical NSL matchup. The Hawks were also on a roll and in second place. The Badgers handed Liberty a rare NSL loss, defeating the Hawks 80-77.
The Badgers now move to 17-8 overall (5-2 in the NSL). The team has now won four straight and are tied with Liberty (13-10, 5-2) for second place in the NSL. The win avenged an earlier 69-57 loss at Liberty.
For YHS head coach Erik Peterson defeating Liberty was big. “It was a great win,” Peterson said. “It wasn’t pretty though. They (Liberty) had three players foul out.”
There were lots of whistles blown. YHS went to the foul stripe often. “We shot 29 of 39 free throws,” Peterson said. “It made a huge difference in the outcome of the game.” Overall, the Badgers hit on 75 percent from the charity stripe.
The Badgers jumped out to an early 14-3 first quarter lead. It was a hole the Chieftains could not climb out of. YHS led 33-18 at the half. The Chieftains (4-18, 0-6) were overwhelmed in the pivotal third quarter. The Badgers scored 30 points in the most points scored in a quarter this season. YHS was up 63-35 at the end of the third. The Badgers would coast the rest of the way. Back-ups got a lot of playing time.
“We couldn’t miss from the outside,” Peterson said. “The team hit seven 3-point shots in the third quarter.” The Badgers let it fly from beyond the arc. YHS took a whopping 37 3-point shots overall, connecting on 13. “The whole team played well. Our inside guys both got double-doubles. Our bench got a lot more minutes. It was a nice win overall.”
Shooting guard Holden Eames led the Badgers once again. Finally healthy from a long football season and recent illness, Eames is taking his game to another level. Eames led YHS with 21 points. Eames connected on 5 of 10 3-point shots.
Ben Page had 12 points and 10 rebounds. The senior center, a transfer from Missouri, has been a huge addition for the Badgers this season.
Power forward Nathaniel Mulkey had 11 points and led YHS with 13 rebounds.
Owen Bazzar had 11 points and led the Badgers with 8 assists. Bazzar also had 5 rebounds in another strong-overall performance. Ethan Coffman and Garrett McMechan each had 6 points.
YHS defeated the Hawks in one of their best wins of the year. It was an ugly game with lots of fouls on both sides. Three Liberty starters fouled out. “We got into early foul trouble,” Peterson said. “They took away our inside game so we attacked the basket. There were so many fouls called. It took away the flow of the game.”
YHS led 46-37 at halftime outscoring Liberty in both the first and second quarters. The Hawks clawed back in the third quarter and the YHS lead was only 59-57 at the end of the third. Both teams battled it out in the fourth. Fouls took a toll on the Liberty starters. YHS made their free-throws. It was the difference in the game.
Eames led all scorers with 23 points. Eames is averaging 22 points in his last three games. Eames hit 11 of his 17 free-throws and drove the lane often to get his free-throw attempts.
Bazzar also had a huge game for YHS, scoring 15 points with a game-leading four 3-pointers. Bazzar also had 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Bazzar’s steady leadership, his outside shooting ability, and willingness to go inside, continues to pay big dividends for the Badgers.
Jack Elrod had a big role off the bench. Elrod scored 13 points and led YHS with 10 rebounds.
Lani Whiteside (18 points) and Quaid Cooper (14) led the Hawks.
It’s almost a lock for Washington Union who is undefeated in NSL play. Unless the Panthers suffer a major collapse the NSL title trophy will belong in Easton. YHS and Liberty are tied for second.
The Badgers have won 17 games in one of the most successful seasons in recent memory. YHS is gelling at the right time. Playoffs are almost assured. YHS is ranked 14th in Division IV, according to MaxPreps.com. A win over Union will certainly improve the Badgers playoff seeding. The Badgers have a poor strength of schedule, a key component in playoff selection, and that has hurt their overall ranking.
School NSL Overall
Washington Union 5-0 8-12
Yosemite 5-2 17-8
Liberty 5-2 13-10
Kerman 3-3 6-17
Chowchilla 1-6 11-14
Sierra 0-6 4-18
The Badgers will host Washington Union on Wednesday (Feb. 5). Varsity starts at 6:30/JV at 5 p.m.
The Panthers defeated the Badgers 44-38 at Easton on Jan. 17. The Badgers will look to avenge that loss. To do that, YHS will need to score more on the stingy Union defense. The Panthers allow a league-low 37 points per game in NSL contests.
Still, the six point loss to Union is all that separates the Badgers from being in a first-place tie.
On Friday the Badgers travel to face Chowchilla. Varsity boys start at 7:30.
YHS will close out North Sequoia League play on Feb. 12 when the Badgers travel to Kerman. Despite a down year for the Lions, the Badgers will be in a battle. Kerman is well-coached and disciplined and has a strong inside game.
Peterson and the Badgers are confident for their final three contests. “The whole team has bought into the ‘team’ aspect,” Peterson said. “Everyone is doing their part. We are getting great minutes from our bench and Holden has really come on now that he is healthy.”