3-point barrage sinks Immanuel girls in TCC opener

Sierra Pacific hits four long shots to pull away in fourth, giving coach Amy Bush her 200th career victory

Immanuel High guard Clara Riddle looks to pass as she’s defended by Sierra Pacific High defender Nyang Ayuen (3) during the first half of the Eagles’ 56-29 loss to the Golden Bears in a Tri-County Conference Kings Canyon Division basketball matchup in Hanford on Jan. 11. (Kenny Goodman)
Jon Earnest
Published January 12, 2024  • 
11:00 am

HANFORD – The Immanuel High Eagles experienced the highs and lows during their first two road games in the Tri-County Conference Kings Canyon Division season.

Two days after blitzing Kingsburg High with a rash of transition points in a 34-point rout, the Eagles (13-7, 1-1) were inundated by a suffocating Sierra Pacific High defense and a blitz of three-point shooting in a 56-29 loss Thursday night at SPHS Gym. The game marked ninth-year head coach Amy Bush’s 200th career victory with the Golden Bears (7-11, 2-0).

“We’re putting it together. When you look at our record, it really doesn’t depict who we are,” said Bush, whose squad dropped four games against rugged out-of-state opposition at a winter holiday tournament in Hawaii. “We played some tough teams, and those tough teams helped us prepare for our league and our playoffs.”

Immanuel coach Loren LeBeau had a simple explanation for the Golden Bears’ dominance on this night.

“Right now, (Sierra Pacific) is farther along in the process,” he said. “They are bigger, faster and stronger at every position.”

The hosts seemed a step ahead much of the contest, effectively forcing turnovers and rushed play from the Eagles while executing its halfcourt offense to build a 27-19 halftime lead. Sophomore Nana Moreno helped keep Immanuel within striking distance with eight points, but the Eagles were playing catchup from the start when SP connected on a trio of 3-point baskets. 

The Golden Bears established dominance in the third quarter, outsourcing the Eagles 15-7 to take a commanding 42-26 lead after three. Junior Asia Jackson scored eight of her game-high 16 points, and four different players drained threes in the final quarter as SP blew the game wide open. Senior Apaiok Ayuen finished with 13 points (including three 3-pointers) while junior guard Andi Jones had 11 points.

Freshman guard Jenna Goertzen had a pair of 3-point baskets and finished with six points, but the Golden Bears were able to limit veteran Eagles guards Sid Azua and Elizabeth Davila to two points apiece. Aval Schletewitz had four points for Immanuel.

“They’re a great team, and they’re young,” Bush said of the Eagles. “Our press and defense is what we’ve really been focusing on, and offensively if we box out, we’ll get the rebound. And the team with the most rebounds usually wins.”

That was Immanuel at Kingsburg in a 50-16 rout on Jan. 9, as the Eagles held a 38-26 command on the boards and bolted out to a 17-0 lead while dominating throughout. Goertzen enjoyed a big night, pouring in 24 points while adding six rebounds, five steals, five deflections and a perfect 8-for-8 at the foul line. Fellow freshman guard Ainsley Jackson added six points and three steals while Schletewitz finished with three blocks.

Immanuel High coach Loren LeBeau speaks to his team during a second half time-out in the Eagles’ 56-29 loss to the Golden Bears in a Tri-County Conference Kings Canyon Division basketball matchup in Hanford on Jan. 11. Host Sierra Pacific sank eight 3-point baskets, four in the final quarter, to win going away. (Kenny Goodman)

Immanuel hosts Hanford West in a 6:30 p.m. start on Tuesday, Jan. 16, then is home against Central Valley Christian on Thursday, Jan. 18, also at 6:30 p.m.

Jon Earnest