Dinuba girls fall short in WYL opener against Hanford

Emperors struggle in West Yosemite League basketball opener with 45-33 loss against Hanford High

Dinuba High’s Kathryn Forbes (23) shoots over the defensive pressure of Hanford High’s Nevaeh Lockett (14) during the third quarter of the Emperors’ 45-33 loss to the Bullpups in the West Yosemite League opener for both teams on Jan. 10 in Hanford. Forbes led Dinuba in scoring with 11 points. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published January 11, 2024  • 
11:00 am

HANFORD – Dinuba High’s offensive production was noticeably absent in its West Yosemite League girls basketball opener Wednesday night, and as a result is facing an immediate uphill climb against the league pack.

Struggling in both shooting and execution, the Emperors (10-8, 0-1), managed just 13 points in the second half while dropping a 47-35 decision at Hanford High. It snapped a three-game win streak (all at the Reedley Holiday Classic) that had given the team momentum heading into the WYL campaign.

Coach Mark Bray said the squad simply wasn’t up to the task against Hanford (7-10, 1-0), which snapped its own three-game losing streak.

“A lot of it had to do with their attitude and their drive,” the coach said. “You can coach them and show them to do so many things, if they don’t do it they will have what happened (Wednesday). We did not stay focused, and never really got into any kind of rhythm as far as running the offense.”

Dinuba’s defensive hustle and scrappiness kept the team within four points and halftime, but the Emperors never really had an answer for Kenyah Stubbs. The Bullpups’ senior point guard finished with a game-high 24 points, 15 in the first half, and she slashed through the DHS defense at key moments the second half for critical baskets of assists.

Stubbs scored nine points in the opening quarter, negating the Emps’ offensive output of Kathryn Forbes (six of her team-high 11 points) and Jalissa Espirito (four of her eight points). Junior guard Bre Hernandez scored five of her six points in the second quarter.

The final 16 minutes, Dinuba’s offensive output wilted. After a Forbes basket earlier in the third cut the deficit to two points, Hanford methodically went on a 10-2 run to build its lead to 10 points. The Emps often were unable to even get in position for a good shot attempt.

“We had a lot of turnovers, a lot of self-inflicted turnovers,” Bray said. “I think that’s what irritates me more than anything is the fact we turned the ball over without (heavy defensive pressure).”

An Espirito basket and free throw by Hernandez closed the deficit to 34-27 after three, but Dinuba was unable to get closer than six points the rest of the way. Stubbs ran the floor effectively with a pair of slashing inside baskets, then sank a back-breaking 3-pointer in the final four minutes to build the cushion to 41-28. DInuba never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Junior forward-center Ava Arias scored all six of her points in the final quarter, including a 3-pointer from the baseline. Junior center Neveah Lockett scored six points while freshman point guard Anakayla Picazo added five points for Hanford.

Dinuba High head coach Mark Bray talks with his team during a timeout in the third quarter of the Emperors’ 45-33 loss to the Bullpups in the West Yosemite League opener for both teams on Jan. 10 in Hanford. Dinuba struggled offensively in the game, managing just 13 points in the second half. (Jon Earnest)

“We’ve got Tulare Western on Friday (Jan. 12) so we’ve got to be ready,” Bray said of the Mustangs (11-6), who lost their WYL opener 50-41 at Mission Oak on Jan. 10. “They have a lot of size, and they’ve started out pretty strong.” 

Tipoff for the varsity game is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at DHS gym.

Jon Earnest