For the second straight year, the Miners boys basketball team battled El Camino in the second-round semifinals of its Nevada Union Invitational Tournament, and for the second consecutive time, the squad was beaten.
The Eagles soared high Friday evening at Albert Ali Gymnasium and pushed an early lead into a more comfortable one with tremendous athleticism and physicality, handling the Miners 66-51.
“We had lots of good looks in the first half but weren’t able to put them in,” said NU head coach Jeff Dellis. “Lots of chippies, just couldn’t convert. The second quarter killed us. (El Camino) had 16 points, and 12 were free throws.”
Plenty of shots were taken from the line in this one, as the Eagles and Miners combined for 10 fouls in the first quarter alone. The game never got into full swing in terms of rhythm — between turnovers and the frequent hack to send players to the line. When it was all said and done, El Camino finished the night shooting 28-of-41 from the free-throw line while NU was 10-of-18.
“Our defense was reactionary rather than proactive,” added Dellis. “They took us out of our offense in the second half. We got disoriented.”
Down just 12-8 after the first quarter, Nevada Union was still within striking distance if it could just get some shots to fall, but El Camino’s defense featured a full-court press that gave the Miners fits at times and created many opportunities for the Eagles. Running plays became especially difficult as the tempo picked up down the stretch and NU was forced out of its comfort zone. Despite the Miners winning the fourth quarter 23-22, the frantic style of play was exactly what El Camino excelled with and by then most of the damage had already been done.
“Starting off the second half, Josiah (Barber) had the and-one for the three-point play to put us down by seven,” Dellis said. “Then (El Camino) had an offensive rebound and had an and-one to put it back to 10.”
That’s as close as the Miners would get, trailing 28-21 early in the third quarter. Senior Josiah Barber led charge for the Miners and finished with 12 points. He was followed by senior Garrett O’Callaghan, who tossed in 10. Sophomore Toby Carter connected from behind the arc twice and added eight points.
“Josiah had a real nice game,” said Dellis. “David Menary was out injured so it put more pressure on Josiah and Garrett. Mario (Edwards) played courageously. We were excited to be here for a home game with a chance to play in the tournament championship. There’s been a lot on the kids’ minds — housing kids, snow days, finals.”
For the Eagles, it was their intensity that kept the Miners on their heels. Turnovers quickly led to points with fast breaks and acrobatic moves inside the paint, drawing fouls and swarming the basket to gather in offensive rebounds for put-backs. Senior Da’Jon Twist was unbelievable with bursts to the hoop weaving among NU defenders. He dropped in a game-high 22 points. Senior Sam Hudson also made his presence known, knocking down a pair 3-pointers and three consecutive free throws after he was fouled while shooting from downtown. He finished with 16 points. Junior Quincy Carson also contributed 12 points.
Nevada Union will wrap up at the NUIT at 2 p.m. today in the third-place game versus Enterprise (Redding), who lost 63-35 to Golden Valley. El Camino will face Golden Valley in the title game at 4 p.m. today.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.