Learning on the fly: Miners, Bruins show resilience, growth during unorthodox hoops season
A chaotic and unorthodox high school hoops season is winding down and while it has brought plenty of trials and tribulations for all involved, the boys basketball coaches from Nevada Union and Bear River both like what they’ve seen from their teams.
“Our kids were forced to grow up on the fly,” said NU head coach Mark Casey, noting there was very little practice time allowed ahead of the season’s delayed start due to COVID-19 restrictions. “For these guys, it was absolutely a trial by fire…. What’s been best about this team, is you can see them slowly getting tougher. They’re getting tougher every night.”
The Miners showcased their toughness Saturday afternoon with a 72-47 victory over Bear River at Albert Ali Gymnasium.
For Bear River, the game with NU was only its sixth of the season, but head coach Jason Camacho said he’s seeing progress from his players and is optimistic for the future of the program.
“They’re a good group of kids and they are just now starting to show progress,” he said. “We’re just going to keep getting better.”
MINERS TRENDING IN RIGHT DIRECTION
After starting the season 0-5, the Miners have fared much better down the stretch.
“Like anything in life, you want to be trending in the right direction and we are,” said Casey, whose team has gone 6-5 since its slow start.
The Miners have impressed in the final weeks of the season, claiming victory in four of their last six contests, including wins over Rio Linda (67-61), Placer (67-57), Bear River (72-47) and Colfax (68-57). Their only losses came in close bouts against Ponderosa (45-43) and Oakmont (63-57).
A big reason for the Miners’ late season surge has been the play of team captains Milo Goehring and Eli Jones.
“Eli is really an unflappable kid,” Casey said of his senior leader, “He really is. He could play this game in pajamas, he looks so casual out there. But underneath that casual exterior is a really, really fiery competitor and a guy who gives us everything.”
Jones had 11 points in Saturday’s win over Bear River and tallied 13 in Monday’s win over Colfax.
Nevada Union’s biggest scoring threat all season has been Goehring, a 6-foot, 7-inch junior who is averaging around 25 points per game.
“It’s always a blessing for a coach when your best player is your hardest worker and best leader, and (Goehring) is that,” said Casey. “This is a guy who has fully bought in. He’s not only a coach on the floor, he’s a leader on the floor. He sets the tone for the guys and he’s just tremendous.”
Goehring sat out most of the second half against Bear River, but still led NU with 17 points. The talented post player again led the Miners with 28 points in the win over Colfax.
The Miners also boast a sharp-shooting junior guard in Cory Ellis.
“The bigger the stage, the bigger he is,” said Casey. “What he lacks in physical stature, he makes up for in heart. That kid is fearless. Very high basketball IQ, so even in a mismatch, he’s very good, very crafty.”
Ellis sank four 3-pointers in the victory over the Bruins and nailed three in the win over Colfax, including two late in the game to help put it away.
Another junior who is making their presence felt on the court is Forrest Harrison, who tallied 12 points, coming on four made 3-pointers in the win over Bear River.
Casey added that up-and-comers like sophomore Clay Renner and junior Augustine Fleisher have also proven they can be impact players at the varsity level.
“If we get to practice and play all summer, the sky is the limit,” said Casey. “There is some good stuff in the pipeline.”
The Miners close out their season Wednesday with a road bout against Lincoln.
YOUNG BRUINS SHOW PROMISE
The Bruins have one win to their credit through their six games. Camacho said he’s not overly focused on the overall record, though. He’s just glad the kids are are on the court.
“With all the pandemic stuff happening, we’re just happy to be in the gym and playing,” he said.
Bear River’s lone win came against Foresthill earlier in the year.
The team has just one senior, so Camacho sees this as a learning experience for most his players.
“It’s been good to see the kids progressing,” he said.
In the contest with NU, Bear River was led by Kyle Houston (13 points), Ryan Downs (10 points), Matt Grimes (10 points) and Tristan Smith (eight points).
“The guards are young and just learning how to play at the varsity level,” said Camacho. “It’s starting to come together now. We’re starting to show progress.”
The team also boasts a developing talent in Harry Alexander.
“Harry has gained so much confidence in himself,” Camacho said. “He’s just starting to understand that his presence is needed in the paint and we need to get him the ball more often.”
The Bruins are set to face Colfax on the road Wednesday before closing out the season at Western Sierra on Friday.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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