Dinuba boys basketball 2-0 after downing basketball

Senior veterans took over down the stretch for 58-52 victory, compete at Clovis North tournament starting Nov. 30

Dinuba High guard Michael Espirito is hounded defensively by Bakersfield High’s Darryl Cartwright  during the first half of the Emperors’ 58-52 victory over the Drillers on Nov. 21. (Jon Earnest)
Dinuba High guard Michael Espirito is hounded defensively by Bakersfield High’s Darryl Cartwright during the first half of the Emperors’ 58-52 victory over the Drillers on Nov. 21. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published November 22, 2023  • 
11:00 am

DINUBA – A pair of senior veterans stepped up at crunch time, enabling the Dinuba High boys basketball team to remain unbeaten on the young season.

Point guard Javier Torres, last season’s top scorer and rebounder, scored six of his 15 points in the final quarter while forward-center Brice Watley added four of his eight points t0 the closing eight minutes as the Emperors held on for a 58-52 victory over visiting Bakersfield High in the ‘23-24 home opener at DHS gym on Nov. 21.

Dinuba (2-0), which tipped off the campaign with a 49-25 trouncing of Mt. Whitney on Nov. 14, used the hard-fought win over the Division I-based Drillers (0-3) as preparation for the upcoming Valley Children’s Tip-Off Invitational tournament at Clovis North High School. The Emps will open with a 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30 game against Birmingham High from Lake Balboa.

Torres, a first team all-West Yosemite League selection, teamed with Watley in the final three minutes to put away Bakersfield, with Torres feeding the 6-foot-4 senior for a layup and four-point lead. Then the 6-foot-3 Torres grabbed a rebound and ran the floor before dishing to Watley for another layup to make it 58-52 with 1:10 remaining. Watley later had a steal, and the Emps overcame missed free throws to close out the win.

“Bryce and Javi are two seniors that really stepped up,” said DHS coach Jeff Schofield. “They both have really good size and both are skilled, and when they’re working together like that we’re at our best.”

The shooting of guard Josiah Ochoa powered Dinuba to a 31-28 halftime lead. The junior, a second team all-WYL selection last year, scored all of his team-high 16 points in the opening 16 minutes while draining four three-pointers, including three during an 11 points first quarter. But Bakersfield led 16-15 after one quarter, getting six points each from Darryl Cartwright and Dominic Contreras.

Ochoa had five points in the second quarter, including his second three, while Joseph Lopez and Angel Sanchez added three-pointers to push the hosts into the lead. Drillers point guard Damari Miller then got hot in the third quarter, scoring 11 of his game-high 17 points to make it 40-39 Emps after three.

Dinuba junior guard Caleb Jefferson contributed seven points, five in the final quarter. Torres had a team-high 11 rebounds and shared the assists lead with Watley, each with three. The Emperors were an ice-cold 3 of 17 from the free throw line, preventing them from a more convincing victory as Bakersfield finished 4 of 6 at the stripe.

Contreras scored 16 points for Bakersfield, which committed 22 turnovers.

Torres had 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists in the season-opening win at Mt. Whitney. Dinuba jumped to an 11-4 lead after one quarter, extended the advantage to 23-9 at halftime and then put the game away with a 17-2 blitz in the final quarter. Watley had eight points and five rebounds.

Dinuba’s other tournaments this fall-winter will be its own Andrew Bedoya Holiday Classic on Dec. 6-9 and the annual Polly Wilhelmsen Invitational in Visalia on Dec. 27-30.

Jon Earnest
Reporter