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SELMA - It’s been a tough start to the 2019-20 season for the Selma boys basketball team.

The Bears dropped to 0-2 after being blown out 71-30 in a non-league game to Golden West that served as their home opener on Thursday. Two days prior, Selma fell 61-51 in the season opener to Madera.

With six players still competing in football including last season’s top scorer Aaron Blancas, Selma head coach Johnny Vargas was shorthanded with six to seven players in the first week of the 2019-20 campaign. Seven guys were active for the game against Golden West.

When he has a team at full-strength, Vargas expects improvement from last year’s six-win season.

“I think we’re going to be a lot more competitive than last year.” Vargas said. “Our effort is going to be a lot better. I think we’re going to be able to compete in league.”

Selma struggled inside the paint and committed costly turnovers all night. The Bears went into halftime down 37-22 and were outscored 34-8 in second half. Selma was held to a single point in the third quarter. DJ Rodriguez scored the Bears only point of the third quarter on a free throw.

Matt Hernandez - the only starter from last year’s lineup - scored a team-high 12 points followed by a 10-point performance from freshman Nick Esparza. The rest of the team scored a combined eight points.

“We could improve just by focusing on the little things,” Esparza said. “Just getting together as a team and seeing what’s going on.”

Golden West started the first quarter on a 10-0 run during the first 1:30 of the game. Esparza scored the Bears first five points to cut the Trailblazers lead to 10-5, but Golden West took advantage of several Selma miscues to end the opening quarter on a 14-2 run. Hernandez scored the Bears’ other two points on a layup on a play that was set up on a pass from Esparza. Selma’s five-point deficit was its slimmest margin all night.

The Bears put together their best quarter of the night in the second, scoring 15 points and outscoring the Trailblazers 15-13. Both teams would go scoreless in the first two minutes of the quarter.

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Down 15 points at halftime, Selma’s deficit increased to 35 points after Golden West had a pair of scoring runs. The Trailblazers started the third quarter with a 6-0 run before the Bears scored its only point of the quarter. Golden West went on a dominating 12-0 run to close out the quarter with a 58-23 lead.

A running clock was implemented in the fourth quarter and the Bears were outscored 13-7 in the final eight minutes.

“All we got to do is really focus on trusting each other and slowing it down on the court,” Hernandez said. “Stuff that we worked on in practice isn’t showing up in the game. We need to calm down, slow down, take a deep breath and just execute.”

In the game against Madera, Selma was down by 19 points and came within four points with six minutes to play. Vargas said that game came down to the team’s lack of depth and conditioning. The Bears only had six active players against the Coyotes.

“They had a full roster and we only had six guys,” Vargas said. “We competed, we ended up losing by 10, but we competed. I don’t feel like we competed as well tonight [against Golden West]. I think we’re getting better. I feel like we’re turning the corner a little bit.”

In Vargas’ first year as coach, Selma went 6-22 overall and had a winless 0-12 mark in Central Sequoia League play last season. The Bears had their lowest win total since 2005-06, which ended in a 6-21 overall record under former coach Mike Pallesi.

Starting his second year at the helm of the program, Vargas said the team improving from last year’s win total is a goal, but his primary expectation is for his guys to compete on a nightly basis.

“I want to get Selma back to the level that we were at when Mike Pallesi was here,” Vargas said. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’re on our way ...We're turning the corner. We’ll get there. I’m confident.”

Up next

The Bears will compete at a tournament in Morro Bay next week starting on Dec. 5. The tournament will run through Dec. 7. After, Selma will begin CSL play on the road against Central Valley Christian on Dec. 10.

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The reporter can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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