Emperors pull away to stay undefeated in league play

Dinuba boys basketball rolls in the fourth quarter against the Tulare Union Tribe for a 63-42 victory; the Emperors improve to 4-0 in the West Yosemite League and 19-3 overall

Tulare Union’s Demaje Riley drives the ball against Dinuba. With their loss to the Emperors, the Tribe fell to 11-10 on the season and 1-3 in the West Yosemite League. (Kason Clark)
Kason Clark
Published January 19, 2024  • 
11:30 am

TULARE – Dinuba boys basketball has been rolling to start the West Yosemite League season, but it found itself in a battle on the road this past Thursday night. The Dinuba Emperors had control with a 44-38 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Tulare Union Tribe remained in striking distance. 

So looking to finally put the game away, the Emperors went on a run and never looked back as they went on to win, 63-42, on Jan. 18. While his team took a while to  get rolling, Dinuba head coach Jeff Schofield was happy to get a league victory on the road. 

“It was a good win. We knew it was going to be tough coming in here tonight,” Schofield said. “It was a tight game most of the way. Tulare did a really good job because they’re super fast and they have a lot of firepower that we were trying to contain as much as possible.”

Many Emperors played well to lead the team to victory on the road. Brice Watley led the team with 22 points while Javier Torres contributed with 19 points. Michael Espinto scored 14 points, including six in the fourth that helped the Emperors pull away. 

After pulling away against the Tribe, the Emperors improved to 19-3 this season. They have been playing their best ball lately as they have won seven in a row and are off to a 4-0 start in the West Yosemite League. Despite the recent success, Watley and his teammates try not to let it go to their heads. 

“We just stay level headed. We always humble ourselves and never think we’re better than someone else just because of records,” Watley said.

But it took a while for the Emperors to take control against the Tribe. Through the entirety of the first quarter and the early portion of the second, the Emperors and Tribe battled back and forth until they were tied 19-19. As the Tribe kept it close, Schofield believed they were just ready to battle. 

“They were just being very physical with us and taking away some of our strengths,” Schofield said. “It took a while for us to get used to their physicality as we played through the contact a little bit.”

As the first half approached its end, the Emperors finally took control with a 9-2 run. Watley got rolling with six points during this stretch to help his team take a 28-21 lead into halftime. However, the Tribe opened the second half with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to 30-28. 

The Emperors got back on track with a quick 8-0 run, but the Tribe kept with it. Early in the fourth, the Emperors had a 44-38 lead and the Tribe still had a shot. But over the next five minutes, the Emperors went on a 17-0 run that finally put the game away. 

“We were just hustling and playing better defense,” Watley said about their run to end the game. “In the fourth quarter, I was getting the ball and either passing it out or going in myself and getting the score.”

After letting the game slip away, the Tribe fell to 11-10 overall this season and 1-3 in the West Yosemite League. While the Tribe will look to get back on track, the Emperors will be looking to stay hot as they head further into league play. Despite their seven-game winning streak, Schofield knows there is still room for improvement for the Emperors. 

“We can get better offensively,” Schofield said. “Our defense for the most part has been pretty consistent but sometimes we get a little bogged down defensively. So that’s something we’ve been working on in practice as we try to get a little bit better on that end of the floor.”

Kason Clark