PREP BASKETBALL: Miners tip off league play with win over Placer
After a challenging run through non-league play, Nevada Union boys basketball head coach Mark Casey knows if his team is going to achieve their goal of reaching playoffs they need to get it done in Foothill Valley League play.
“We feel like this thing is wide open,” said Casey, whose team went 5-5 in the FVL a season ago and finished in fourth place, one spot away from an automatic playoff bid. “This year there is no team that’s way out in front of the pack. But, there aren’t any nights off either. We have one way into the playoffs and that’s to win in league. It’ll take great defense and we’re going to have to be better on the offensive side.”
The Miners were much better on the offensive side Tuesday night as they tipped off FVL play with a thrilling win over Placer, 68-66, at Albert Ali Gymnasium.
“We showed a lot of fight,” said Casey. “For us to get this, what a great way to start league.”
After battling the defending FVL co-champ Hillmen (7-12, 0-1 FVL) to a 28-28 halftime score, the Miners (7-12, 1-0 FVL) jumped ahead and took a four point lead into the fourth.
Placer cut the lead down to two early in the quarter, but free throws from Riley Cotton and J.T. Conway along with a Milo Goehring put back pushed NU’s lead up to six.
The Miners then stretched their lead to nine after a series of made free throws from Goehring and Eli Jones. NU shot 20 free throws in the fourth quarter and made 13 of them.
The Hillmen also spent a good amount of time at the free throw line in the fourth and was able to creep back to within three points, 66-63, with 12 seconds left in the game.
That’s when Goehring put the game away. The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward calmly stepped to the line after being fouled and nailed a pair of free throws to put NU up by five.
“I just wanted to make ‘em so we could seal it,” said Goehring, who hit 5-of-6 free throws in the fourth quarter and was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe overall.
“That’s beyond clutch,” Casey said of Goehring’s effort. “It’s really incredible to watch how poised he is. He is without question the most mature kid on our team.”
As a team, the Miners were 21-of-28 on free throws. The Hillmen were 15-of-19.
Placer hit a 3-pointer as time expired, but remained two points short and the Miners came bounding off the court in victory.
“It was a good team win,” said Goehring. “We had contributors all over the court, from the bench, starters, everything. It was a good win.”
Goehring finished with a game-high 23 points, seven of which came in the final stanza. Jones also shined down the stretch, hitting a 3-pointer and scoring eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Senior wing Charles Wilcoxen added 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Wilcoxen was especially hot in the third quarter when he drilled three from downtown.
The Miners trailed Placer, 24-13, early in the second quarter but an impressive showing by junior forward J.T. Conway kept them in the game. Conway scored 10 of his 11 points in the second frame. He also had a team-high seven rebounds.
“J.T. was phenomenal,” said Casey. “He started his first game for us at Chico last week and we got a win, and he was a big part of that. And, tonight he was a huge part of this. He was really good with the ball, and made good decisions. We don’t ask him to do a lot, but he does a lot for us. He finds ways to score, gets rebounds and was instrumental in our zone look tonight. He made it tough down there.”
Leading the defensive effort was senior wing Mans Hassler, who came off the bench and caused havoc for the Hillmen.
“That’s our Swedish sensation,” said Casey. “He’s a foreign exchange student from Sweden. He had a phenomenal game. He’s like our energizer bunny. Absolutely our best on ball defender. He’s just out there having fun. If you watch him, he’s out there smiling.”
Hassler added four points on the offensive end as well.
Placer was led by junior forward Max Petrenko (19 points) and junior guard Jackson Lee (18 points).
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Miners had been averaging 46.7 points per game and had only scored 60 or more points once this season. Their 68 points against Placer is the second most for the Miners, behind a 69 point showing in a loss to Burbank at the Justin Gardner Memroial Tournament, Dec. 7.
NU’s 40 second half points against Placer was their best offensive output in any half this season.
IT’S BEEN AWHILE
The last time an NU boys basketball team won a league opener was Jan. 10, 2013 when the Miners were in the Sierra Foothill League and topped Woodcreek, 75-68, in double overtime.
The win also snaps a four-game losing streak to Placer. Before Tuesday night’s victory, NU hadn’t beat Placer since Dec. 30, 2010. The Miners and Hillmen became league foes last season.
Next up for the Miners is a road contest at 7 p.m. Thursday against Oakmont (12-2, 1-0). The Vikings opened league play with a win over Lincoln, 55-44.
JV AND FROSH
The junior varsity Miners kept their game with Placer close in the first half, but struggled to keep up with the Hillmen down the stretch and fell, 57-42.
NU’s freshman squad avenged an early season loss to Placer and beat the Hillmen, 53-36, Tuesday. The Miners (7-10, 1-0) got it done with tough defense and timely three point shooting. NU made nine 3-pointers in the game, seven of which came in the second half.
Tate Beaudette led all NU scorers with 13 points off the bench. Chase Nye, Brett Cota and James Kinney each contributed nine points. Dylan Lampe chipped in with six points.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4232.
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