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Local teams hone skills in summer ball
Apparently, basketball is a year-round sport around here.
Adding to its several other sports leagues, McDermont Fieldhouse in Lindsay is hosting its first high school summer basketball league, giving the chance for local high school squads to keep their shooting forms sharp.
Eight teams representing seven high schools will each play 10 games on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout June and July with a subsequent playoff tournament yet to be scheduled.
Orange Belt squads Strathmore, Exeter and Lindsay each entered a team made up mostly of their varsity players while Porterville High had enough varsity and JV players to field two teams: Porterville 1 and Porterville 2.
Tuesday’s slate was the third game for all teams, and the nightcap pitted Exeter versus a short-handed six-man Lindsay roster.
In a relaxed environment in which no one kept stats, Exeter squeaked by Lindsay, 47-45, after building a 10-point lead early in the second half. (Games are played with two 20-minute halves with a three-minute intermission.)
Exeter coach Jared Mandville, who wrapped up his first season with the Monarchs in February, still found reason for concern despite the win.
“It’s summer, so it’s not about the scoreboard, really,” Mandville said. “It’s more about teaching. We had moments where we weren’t communicating or in the right spots on the floor.”
Nine of the 11 players who suited up for Mandville will be representing the varsity Monarchs this winter, so Mandville sees the summer as an opportunity to grow.
“We’ve got some guys that’ve been together a little longer now and some have gotten in the weight room,” Mandville said, “but we’re still not exactly where we wanna be.”
Exeter’s young guard trio of Clay James, Justin Lamb and Abel Ibarra helped employ the Monarchs’ four-out press and high-low motion against Lindsay’s small-ball scheme all night. (Lindsay’s 5-foot-9 wing Gary Baker often covered 6-foot-2 center Jaycee Totty.)
But Baker nearly took over the game himself to keep the Cardinals close, especially after he knocked down three straight free throws to bring the Cardinals within 45-43 with 35 seconds left.
Baker led the team in scoring in an encore performance after averaging roughly 20 in the Cardinals’ previous tournament at Fresno City College.
With Lindsay stars Seth Townsend and Bryan Gonzalez graduated, Baker becomes to the go-to scorer this year. And he relishes every moment of it.
“I played quarterback last fall, so I like the pressure,” Baker said.
Asked if he would take the blame if his team loses, Baker shrugged his shoulders.
“We went 0-10 in football my sophomore year and no one said it was my fault back then,” Baker said.
The Cardinals will benefit from the return of senior point guard Ronnie Cortez, who played his sophomore year, then took his junior year off. Cortez was often the speediest player on the court.
The other three varsity Cardinals on the roster are Joseph Barrientos, Ritchie Lopez and Nick Sanchez.
Mandville seemed eager to see how his team stacks up at McDermont for the next month.
“We feel like the level of competition will be right for us,” Mandville said. “So it’s close and we get to play schools the same size as us. As far as the officiating and the venue, this is excellent.”