PREP BASKETBALL: Miners edge Enterprise in NUIT opener
MINERS 51, HORNETS 49
NU: J. Fraser – 21 points, 7 rebs, 3 assists
NU: J. Gardner – 11 points, 6 assists, 5 rebs, 4 blocks
NU: D. Fay - 9 points, 6 rebs
NU: H Fay - 6 points
E: Adam Shoff – 23 points
In front of a packed house of their peers at Albert Ali Gymnasium, the Miners tipped off the Nevada Union Invitational Tournament with a hard-fought victory over Enterprise, 51-49, Thursday.
The game came down to the final seconds as Enterprise fired up a 3-pointer with just a few ticks left on the clock, but the ball found only rim and the Miners pulled down the rebound as time expired.
“They had chances,” a relieved Nevada Union head coach Mark Casey said after the game. “If I had a rosary, I would have been using it.”
The Miners (4-1) jetted out to an early lead, grabbing a 15-3 edge in the first quarter. But, Enterprise continued to battle back and would eventually pull to within two at halftime, 30-28.
Nevada Union held a 40-35 lead heading into the final quarter, but trailed 47-45 with just minutes remaining.
The Miners’ senior point guard Jack Fraser brought the game even with a strong drive to the hoop, but the Hornets responded with a jumper to grab a 49-47 edge with a little more than a minute left.
Fraser would then find Hayden Fay in the corner and the senior guard drained a clutch 3-pointer to put the Miners up 50-49 with 52 seconds left on the clock.
Nevada Union then forced a turnover and after a Fraser free throw led, 51-49. The Hornets got up a handful of potential tying and winning shots, but none fell as the Miners eked out their fourth straight victory of the season.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game,” said Fraser, who tallied a team-high 21 points. “We knew if we stuck to our game plan and really worked the ball around, we’d get some good looks.”
Fraser also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and doled out three assists.
“He’s unflappable,” Casey said of Fraser, “He plays really hard and we trust him. He’s really committed to what we’re doing and he’s a real good 4-year program guy. He’s been in a lot of big games and he’s truly our leader.”
Sophomore standout Justin Gardner, a 6-foot, 4-inch guard, also had a strong game for the Miners with 11 points, six assists, five rebounds and four blocks.
“This is a guy who understands how to share the ball, he understands angles, spacing,” Casey said of Gardner. “He’s a very high level basketball player. He’s good now, the upside for him phenomenal. He’s only going to get better.”
Fay finished with six points, coming on a pair of 3-pointers, and also did an outstanding job of slowing Enterprises top offensive threat in the second half.
After Enterprises Adam Shoff hit five 3-pointers and tallied 17 points in the first half, the Miners charged Fay with stopping the sharp shooter in the second half. Fay would hold Shoff scoreless in the third quarter and to just six points in the second half.
“Hayden just shut him down,” said Casey. “Hayden’s an athlete and he took on that challenge.”
Also playing a key role for the Miners was junior forward Dawson Fay with nine points and six rebounds.
While Casey was happy to escape with the win, he said the Miners will need to play better if they hope to get a victory in the next round.
“If we play like that, we will get beat tomorrow,” he said.
The Miners will now face El Camino in the second round at 6:45 p.m. Friday. El Camino beat Will C. Wood in the first round.
“We just got to stick together, run our offense, play hard defense and bring the energy,” Fraser said.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.