LEMOORE – The Dinuba High boys basketball team have checked off their first goal achieved for the 2023-24 season: become West Yosemite League champions.
The Emperors led from the early moments of the first quarter on Thursday night, delivering the knockout blow in the fourth quarter to cruise past second place Lemoore High, 63-49. Dinuba (23-3 overall) posted its 11th consecutive victory since a loss to Redwood at the Polly Wilhelmsen Tournament in late December.
The streak includes eight straight wins over WYL opposition, including a 57-40 home win over Tulare Western on Jan. 30. In both games, the veteran trio of seniors Javier Torres and Brice Watley along with junior Josiah Ochoa continued their outstanding play in all facets.
“They’re solid, man, they complement each other well and they’re all unselfish so they find each other in good spots,” said head coach Jeff Schofield. “They’ve been doing a really good job lately (on defense), we try to take away some of the easy points and make (the opponent) have to work for it. And it;s working out for us.”
Watley was especially strong on the defensive side and on the boards, pulling down 16 rebounds and blocking two shots against Tulare Western while adding 14 boards and three blocks at Lemoore. The senior forward-center also flashed his passing skills with six assists against the Tigers.
Senior wing-guard Torres was his usual standout self, burning Lemoore for a game-high 21 points while effectively attacking the basket. He also collected 12 rebounds and four assists two days after registering 14 points and a team-best six assists against the Mustangs.
Finally, junior guard Ochoa provided outside scoring prowess with 18 points and four 3-point baskets against Tulare Western and then 17 points and five 3s against Lemoore. Ochoa delivered two of his outside baskets during an 18-10 third quarter that built the Emperors lead at Lemoore to 16 points.
The Tigers (18-9, 5-3) crept back within 12 points midway through the final quarter, but Torres sank a free throw and layup before Watley connected to Ochoa for a layup. The defense continued to shut down the hosts as Watley powered inside for a layup before another Ochoa lead capped a 10-2 run to build the lead to 20 points.
The Emps also received nine points and a pair of rebounds from Angel Sanchez while guard Joseph Lopez added five points off the bench. Kobe Green and Michael Fox scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Lemoore.
Schofield said the team’s mission and goals are just beginning. The regular season concludes with games against Tulare Union (Wednesday, Feb. 7) and at Mission Oak (Friday, Feb. 9). Central Section playoff seedings will then be announced on Saturday, Feb. 8.
“We’re very excited to be league champs, but there’s more out there,” he said. “Especially with our league, with a lot of very good teams. So we’re very proud. We’ll take it one game at a time and see how it goes.”