Dinuba girls dominate Holiday Tournament opener

Emperors roll to 21-point lead after one quarter, 26-point halftime lead and go on to cruise past Washington Union

Dinuba High’s Sydney Sandoval lunges to challenge the pass of Washington Union’s Jade Holland during the first quarter of the Emperors’ 51-22 rout of Washington Union in the opening round of the Dinuba Holiday Tournament on Dec. 21. Dinuba employed full-court pressure to force turnovers and set up easy transition baskets while jumping to a 23-2 lead after one quarter. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published December 22, 2023  • 
11:00 am

DINUBA – Dinuba High quickly erased any drama from its opening game of the Dinuba Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament against Washington Union.

Slapping on full-court defensive pressure from the opening tip, the Emperors scored the game’s first 21 points and stormed to a 23-2 lead after one quarter – increased to 31-5 by halftime – and cruised to a 51-22 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night, Dec. 21. It was a season-high in points for Dinuba (4-6).

“Offensively, we’ve been really slow starting,” DHS coach Mark Bray said of his young squad. “We tweaked our press a little bit, changed a couple of things in our offense. We got some good shooting from Jalissa (Esirito) and Sydnee (Sandoval).”

The junior guard tandem provided numerous headaches for Washington Union (2-7), with Espirito alone nearly matching the Panthers’ scoring output with a game-high 21 points along with steals and assists. Sandoval scored nine of her 13 points in the opening quarter, collecting steals as she helped on full-court pressure at the top and scoring multiple breakaway layups.

Bray also praised the production of junior forward-center Ava Arias, who scored six of her eight points in the first half.

DInuba High’s Kathryne Forves (23) passes from the post during the first half of the Emperors’ 51-22 rout of Washington Union in the opening round of the Dinuba Holiday Tournament on Dec. 21. The sophomore finished with four points. (Jon Earnest)

“We haven’t had a real good inside presence. We played Arroyo Grande last week (a 54-11 loss) and they had (a 6-foot-1) and 6-2 inside,” he said. “This is more of the game (we like). We’re very young, mostly juniors, sophomores and freshmen.”

Espirito has the most varsity experience, having seen court time as a freshman on the Emperors’ Central Sequoia League championship team in 2021-22. She quickly took charge against Washington, scoring seven points and setting the table for her teammates to collect baskets.

Bioth Espirito and Sandoval drained 3-point shots and the Dinuba defense never allowed the Panthers to get into their offense. The visitors’ first score came from Unique Hill in the final minute of the first quarter, and the senior had four of WU’s five points in the opening 16 minutes.

Arias finished with eight points and sophomore Kathryne Forbes added four points to provide offensive production in the paint for Dinuba. Seven different players scored for the Emperors, while Hill had eight points and Yaslene Barr five points for the Panthers.

Dinuba next takes on Redwood High in a 7:30 p.m. late game on Friday, Dec. 22. The Rangers (7-4) routed Orange Cove 54-10 in the opening game on Dec. 21 as Ahriel Madden scored 14 points and Brooklyn Tayo added 12 points.

Breanna Garcilazo and Jennifer Ramirez scored three points each for the Titans (0-11), who play Washington Union in a 6 p.m. game on Dec, 21. The three-day round robin tourney concludes Saturday, Dec. 23 with Redwood playing Washington Union at noon and Dinuba hosting Orange Cove at 1:30 p.m.

After Christmas, the Emperors play in the Reedley Girls Invitational starting on Thursday, Dec. 27 with a 3:30 p.m. game against Madera High.

Jon Earnest