Miners open Nevada Union Invitational with win
For the second straight year the Miners opened the Nevada Union Invitational Basketball Tournament with a win, this time beating the Blazers from Lindhurst, 66-33, in front of a packed Albert Ali Gymnasium.
“I don’t know that our kids have played in front of that big of a crowd before,” NU head coach Jeff Dellis said. “So there was some nerves and early burps and hiccups, shooting the ball a little long, but it was nice defensively to see us active and dictate tempo. So I hope the kids in the crowd loved it as much as we did, our players were over the top enjoying the experience.”
With a 12:50 p.m. start the Miners filled Ali Gymnasium with their fellow students as the tournament tipped off.
“It was really nice, I really liked the energy in here,” senior Garrett O’Callaghan said. “It’s probably the most people we will see this season.”
O’Callaghan was also taken back by the lack of physical size on the Lindhurst side.
“My whole entire career we have been at the bottom, and its nice to be on top,” O’Callaghan said when referring to the height disparity the Miners usually face. “I’m used to guys 4-inches taller than me posting up on me.”
Lindhurst’s tallest player is 6-foot, 2-inches and only three others on the team top 6-feet.
With the home crowd behind them and a sizable height advantage the Miners jumped out to a big lead.
O’Callaghan got things going with an easy bucket off a nice dish from Josiah Barber. O’Callaghan then stole the ball, led the break and returned the favor with a nice pass to Barber for the bucket. Barber was fouled on the make and added the and-one free throw. Barber finished with eight points and nine rebounds, seven of which were offensive. O’Callaghan also had eight points to go with four assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Sophomore Jahn Chensee, backing down his defender at the top of the key, then hit a nice one-hander off the glass to put NU up 7-0. Sophomore Daniel Carter hit a 3-pointer, O’Callaghan drilled a jumper, and David Menary tallied an inside bucket to put the Miners up 14-4 after one. Carter finished the game with a team-high nine points, Menary finished with six.
In the second quarter senior Nolan Stefani, NU’s only returning starter from last season, got things going with a 3-pointer to extend the lead. This was Stefani’s first game of the season, and while he started the game his minutes were limited, scoring three points and grabbing a pair of rebounds.
The Miners continued to build their lead with buckets from Trevor Humphreys, Barber, Carter, O’Callaghan, Owen Smith and Toby Carter.
At the half, the Miners led Lindhurst, 33-12, utilizing balanced scoring and stellar defense. Leading the defensive effort was sophomore point guard Mario Edwards, who drew the task of covering Lindhurst’s best offensive threat Alex Yang. Edwards did well holding Yang to just 10 points in the game.
After the half it was more of the same, as NU crashed the boards on both sides of the ball, giving them multiple opportunities on offense, and limiting the Blazers possessions to just one shot.
Every NU player got quality minutes in the win and all 13 Miners scored, including Kyle Owen with two, Edwards with two, Humphreys with six, Michael Tapia with an acrobatic two, Chensee with seven, Toby Carter with six, Cammon with four and Owen Smith with three. Smith also pulled down eight rebounds, five of which were offensive.
“We talked before the game about how we thought we had an established pecking order,” Dellis said. “But they keep competing during practice for minutes and I feel like we are 13 guys deep.”
Opening the tourney with a win hasn’t been a problem for the Miners, but winning an NUIT championship has been something that has alluded NU in recent years.
“We gotta just keep the energy up,” O’Callaghan said. “We did a good job in the beginning of today’s game keeping the energy up, we sank down a bit in the middle, but our coach gave us a pep talk at halftime and we came out and just did our stuff.”
The Miners will compete for the right to play in the championship game against last year’s NUIT champ El Camino at 7:30 p.m. today.
El Camino beat Will C. Wood 55-51, Enterprise beat River Valley 61-60, and Golden Valley topped Orland 76-37 in other NUIT action.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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