VISALIA – The Monache High Marauders provided the perfect pace for the Dinuba High Emperors during Wednesday’s opening round of the 72nd annual Polly Wilhelmsen Invitational basketball tournament.
Choosing to attack the Emperors’ full-court defensive pressure and shoot quickly at first opportunity, the Marauders (9-3) were overpowered early. Dinuba (12-2) methodically built a 21-8 lead after one quarter, increasing it to 19 at halftime and 29 after three quarters while cruising to an 84-51 victory at Redwood High gym. It was the Emps’ first game since a win over Central on Dec. 18.
“We hadn’t played in a while, so we were hoping to come out strong,” coach Jeff Schofield said of Dinuba, who next plays at Redwood (7-7) in the 7:45 p.m. game Thursday, Dec. 29 at RHS gym. “The offense just came out flowing right away and we got enough stops early on. You’re always a little nervous coming out if you haven’t played in awhile.”
No worries, as it turned out. Dinuba feasted on the quick tempo and buried Monache with a torrent of easy transition baskets, with five different players cracking double figures and 12 of 14 players dressed out on the roster scoring. Five players scored in the opening quarter, led by guard Josiah Ochoa (16 points, two assists on the evening).
Senior forward-center Brice Watley had a big game offensively with 19 points, 12 in the first half, seven rebounds and two assists. Senior guard-forward Javier Torres scored 14 points and collected a team-high eight rebounds and five assists, while other double figure scorers were guard Michael Espirito (11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers) and forward Caleb Jefferson (10 points).
“Last week we had a great team shootaround together, and (Tuesday) we had a good practice,” Schofield said. “There are a lot of really good teams here, so we’ll see what we end up with.”
Monache had a three-pronged scoring attack led by junior guard Ty Baxter, who scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half. Senior shooting guard Ramsey Barrios had all 10 of his points in the opening half while senior center Emmett Focke finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
It will be the second meeting this season between Dinuba and Redwood; the Emperors posted a 55-50 victory in a non-league home contest on Dec 12. The Rangers advanced to the Wilhelmsen quarterfinals with a 50-43 win over Delano on Dec. 27; building a 22-point lead after three quarters before fending off the Tigers’ 17-2 charge in the final eight minutes.
“When we played them last time, they didn’t have their big kid,” Schofield said of Redwood, which has two freshman post players on the roster.
Semifinal and championship games on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 29-30, will be played at Mt. Whitney High’s Charles Marshall Court in Visalia. The semi finals are at 6 and 7:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29, with the championship at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30.