Immanuel boys basketball rolls in TOC opener

Unbeaten Eagles have five scorers in double figures to overpower Minarets, third quarter eruptions buries Orange Cove against Sierra Pacific

Immanuel High’s Mikah Tolpezninkas attacks the basket against Minarets High defender Hunter Wade during the first half of the Eagles’ 92-31 rout of the Mustangs in the opening round of the Immanuel Tournament of Champions on Nov. 29. The senior all-Tri County Conference guard scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published November 30, 2023  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY  – The Immanuel High boys basketball team didn’t need long to establish dominance in their opening game of the four-day Immanuel Tournament of Champions event.

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, the retooled Eagles (3-0) bolstered by two high-scoring and juniors seasoned by a 10-18 campaign in 2022-23, raced out to a 33-13 lead after one quarter and never looked back in a 92-31 dismantling of the Minarets High Mustangs in the late feature game at Immanuel South Gym. Forward Tad Tibbett, holder of the school’s single game scoring record set last season, poured in 11 of his game-high 27 points in the period and had 21 at halftime.

Guard Micah Tolpezninkas, an all-Tri County Conference performer and the team’s top returning scorer at 17.4 points per game, scored nine of his 13 points in the second quarter during a 29-7 eruption that resulted in a 62-20 cushion at the break. Sophomore guard Tye Tibbett and sophomore forward Luke Banks scored 14 and 13 points respectively, while junior wing Caden Joseph added 10 points.

Immanuel second-year head coach Todd Brown said the team is starting to reap the benefits of a rebuilding season.

“The guys kind of learned what I expect (from) last year. They’re working hard in the weight room and they’re working hard at practice,” he said. “This is a fun group of guys to coach. They’re athletic, and they want to learn.”

The Eagles applied aggressive defensive pressure to set the stage for an attacking transition game, getting numerous easy baskets. Even with a huge lead, the team’s intensity continued as shown when Tolpezninkas took a nasty tumble in the third quarter. He shook off the fall, and returned to brief action.

“We have good leaders returning from last year that are setting the tone for everybody,” Brown said. “(Tolpezninkas is) a tough guy, he and Tad really lead us well. They’ve just been working hard since the end of last season. They’re always in the gym.”

Matt Carlton and Logan Davis each scored nine points for Minarets (0-2), who next take on 1-1 Porterville at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30. The Eagles, meanwhile, will play 1-1 Fresno High at 7:30 p.m. as they go after their fourth straight win this fall.

Friday’s schedule will have Immanuel playing Porterville at 8 p.m., with other games at 2:45, 4:15 and 5:45 p.m. There will be food trucks outside the gym from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., and other attractions include a 3-point contest at 7 p.m. and dunk contest at 7:20 p.m.

Saturday’s final day schedule has the seventh place game at 11 a.m., fifth place game at 12:30 p.m., third place contest at 2:30 and championship at 4 p.m.

In other opening TOC games:

Sierra Pacific 74, Orange Cove 53 

The Titans (2-2) were buried in a 24-7 third quarter against the Golden Bears (3-0), who had four players score in double figures as well as 18 points off the bench.

Orange Cove trailed just 27-23 at halftime as guard Diego Sanchez scored 10 of his team-high 19 points. Hector Macias added all eight of his points in the quarter, while forward Alexis Beltran finished the game with 11 points.

The Titans play at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30 against Cesar Chavez High (2-2) a 75-67 loser to McLane. 

McLane 75, Chavez 67

The Highlanders (2-3) outscored the Titans 25-12 in the final quarter to rally for the opening round victory.

Guard James Brown caught fire in the final eight minutes, pouring in 16 of his team-high 26 points including a 3-pointer. Cedric Hughes had 19 points while Jaye Din Turner added 11 points for McLane, which takes on Sierra Pacific at 6 p.m. on Nov. 30.

Senior wing Jesus Martinez scored a game-high 32 points for Chavez, with 13 in the third quarter. Marcus Ruiz chipped in with 13 points.

Porterville 56, Fresno 47 

The Panthers (1-1) roared out to a 16-point halftime lead and held off a fourth-quarter rally from the Warriors. Eight different players scored, led by Omar Ramirez and Sammy Santillan with nine points apiece while Brayden Della and Landen Haynes each scored eight points.

Jerome Taylor scored a game-high 12 points while Darryus Johnson added 10 points for Fresno.

Jon Earnest