Dinuba boys’ basketball 3-point blitz buries Immanuel

Emperors hit 10 shots above the arc to build 31-point halftime lead, cruise to 69-43 win over Eagles in Bedoya Holiday Classic opener

Dinuba High defenders Josiah Ochoa (3) and Caleb Jefferson apply defensive pressure to Immanuel High’s Tye Tibbett during the third quarter of the Emperors’ 69-43 rout of Immanuel High in the opening round of the Andrew Bedoya Holiday Classic on Dec. 6. Dinuba used full-court defensive pressure and torrid outside shooting to build a 31-point halftime lead. (Jon Earnest)
Dinuba High defenders Josiah Ochoa (3) and Caleb Jefferson apply defensive pressure to Immanuel High’s Tye Tibbett during the third quarter of the Emperors’ 69-43 rout of Immanuel High in the opening round of the Andrew Bedoya Holiday Classic on Dec. 6. Dinuba used full-court defensive pressure and torrid outside shooting to build a 31-point halftime lead. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published December 7, 2023  • 
11:00 am

DINUBA – The Dinuba High Emperors quickly took away any drama from a potentially attractive matchup with the Immanuel High Eagles in the first round of the 8th annual Andrew Bedoya Holiday Classic.

Using an effective full-court trapping defensive pressure to set up an inside-outside transition game, the hosts peppered Immanuel with 10 3-point field goals in the first half — six coming during a 30-7 second quarter run — and built a 31-point halftime cushion while cruising to a 69-43 victory in Wednesday’s late feature game at Dinuba High gym.

Dinuba (6-1), coming off a 2-1 showing at the strong Valley Children’s Tip-Off Classic in Clovis on Nov. 30-Dec. 2, carried over its efficient play against the Eagles (5-2). Senior guard-wing Javier Torres put on a dazzling performance with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Also, the outside barrage came from guards Michael Espirito (three 3-pointers) along with Joseph Lopez and Josiah Ochoa (two treys each) during the opening 16 minutes.

“We always tell the kids to play unselfish, and when we hit (shots) like that we’re tough to guard,” Emperors coach Jeff Schofield said. “We’ve got some good threats on the inside and so that frees us up on the perimeter.”

The trapping full- and three quarters-court pressure defense set the tone early, allowing Dinuba to jump to a 20-7 lead after one quarter as Espirito and Lopez both drained two 3-pointers and Torres scored six points while dishing off three assists. The swarming defense and transition game also prevented the Eagles’ top two scorers, seniors Mikah Tolpezninkas and Tad Tibbett, from getting untracked.

The Emperors kicked it into full gear in the second quarter, getting two treys from Ochoa along with nine points and four assists from Torres fueled by slashing drives to the basket. By the time the smoke cleared, Dinuba was in total command with a 50-19 lead at the break.

Dinuba’s pace steadied in the second half with the big lead, and Immanuel finally got some offensive rhythm going in the second half. Tolpezninkas scored seven of his team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter, including his lone 3-pointer of the night, as the Eagles closed the deficit to 18 points, with just about four minutes remaining.

But Torres then added a basket and assist during a 9-0 run that pushed the Emperors lead well above 20 points, and the reserves closed out the game.

“They play really hard, and there’s no quit in them. They kept coming,” Schofield said of Immanuel. “We started to get a little tired, and (Tolpezninkas) sort of sliced us up pretty good and we had to pull back a little bit. We thought that we could pressure them a little bit, and it worked out.”

Ochoa finished with 17 points, Espirito had nine points and Lopez six points as nine different players scored for Dinuba. Tad Tibbett finished with eight points and had a bandage on his chin after receiving a gash, while Tye Tibbett and Caden Joseph added seven points apiece for the Eagles.

Dinuba’s remaining pool games will be with Hanford West (8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7) and Sunnyside (8 p.m. Dec. 8) before the four-day event wraps on Saturday, Dec. 9 capped by the 6:30 p.m. championship game.

“Every game for the most part is going to be pretty competitive,” Schofield said of the Emperors’ remaining tourney schedule. “It should be fun, we’ll see who comes out on top.”

Jon Earnest
Reporter