LEMOORE — With a poor shooting night from both teams, it was Lemoore who found the rhythm down the stretch and came away with a 53-51 home victory over El Diamante on Wednesday.
“Sometimes you fall out of a boat and you still can’t hit water,” Lemoore coach Joel Sligh said. “Today was one of those days.”
And with the shooting struggles on Wednesday, it was all hands on deck for Lemoore. The Tigers kept shooting and had 12 of their 15 players score with Jaden Jones scoring a team-high 14 points. Chris Taylor had eight points and Daniel Wyatt added six points.
“I think [the win] shows that sometimes when everything doesn’t go our way we still have the ability to win games,” Sligh said. “You need that in league, especially when you play teams that are familiar with you.”
The Tigers also extended their season-high win streak to five games, including winning six of their last seven games, and are now 4-0 on their home court.
The West Yosemite League contest started slow. Each team had 21 points at halftime and it was a struggle just to get that many on the board.
The Miners (9-8, 0-2 WYL) led 7-2 before the Tigers (10-4, 2-0 WYL) seemed to get on a roll with an 11-0 run and 13-9 lead after the first quarter. But they wound up scoring only eight points in the second quarter.
“We always start slow on the home court,” Lemoore guard Juelein Fox said. “I think it’s just jitters and we’re nervous to play in front of the home crowd.”
Poor communication, bad passes and blown layups summed up the first 16 minutes. Sligh was satisfied with the looks the Tigers were getting, but they just weren’t falling on Wednesday.
“I loved every single shot we took,” Sligh said. “I didn’t think we took a bad shot. Every single shot in any other game I would’ve told you, ‘Man we’re running out of here by 20-plus,’ but it just so happened today we couldn’t find the bucket.”
The Miners weren’t doing any better, but they managed to build a 29-21 lead when they started the third quarter on an 8-0 run. Sligh called a timeout to get his team refocused.
“It was just a matter of us keeping our composure,” Lemoore forward Damian Goudeau said. “That’s what we’re going to really work on this year … and staying consistent the whole time and that’s what we did tonight.”
After the timeout, Lemoore answered with its own 10-2 run. Daniel Charleston, who had an electrifying block, started it with a layup and Jones and Taylor hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut into the lead. Wyatt’s shot inside the paint tied the game and capped their run.
The Miners led 38-36 at the end of the third quarter.
With a close game, it was Jones answering the call in the fourth quarter. He scored nine of his 14 points over the final 5:30 and hit two 3-pointers. His second 3-pointer from the left corner gave the Tigers a 50-43.
“We were missing a couple in the first, second, third and my coach said, ‘We need to get into it,’” Jones said. “They passed it to me and I know that they trust me to shoot the three, so I just shot my shot.”
Lemoore guard Jayden Bray’s putback gave the Tigers a nine-point lead — their largest of the game — and was the finishing touch on a clutch 12-2 run when they needed it the most.
Despite the struggles, the Tigers moved to 2-0 in the WYL and are the only other team without a loss. Mt. Whitney is also 2-0.
It’s the first time Lemoore has started league 2-0 since they went 11-1 and were crowned the league champions during the 2015-16 season. They finished that season 26-4 overall and won the CIF Central Section Division II championship.
Lemoore has its first road league game against Golden West (7-12, 0-2 WYL) today at 7:30 p.m.