LEMOORE — It was a tough night for the Lemoore boys basketball team as they couldn’t seem to hang on — literally and figuratively — in the final minutes of the game and lost 56-52 to El Diamante.
Joemyl Ragunton scored a game-high 16 points and Bryce Hernandez added another 12, but costly turnovers down the stretch made the difference in Tuesday’s West Yosemite League game.
Ragunton, Lemoore’s senior guard, gave the Tigers a 41-40 lead with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was the Tigers’ first lead of the game.
Ragunton said his plan was to “attack the basket and try to get the bucket.”
El Diamante had kept Lemoore at bay for the majority of the game by hitting timely shots when they needed them. They would respond again.
The Miners went right back down the court and finished an uncontested layup to grab the lead right back. A couple possessions later, it was Ragunton with a jumper to give them the one-point edge.
But El Diamante went coast to coast for the layup. After not having a single lead change in the first three quarters, there was four in the fourth.
The Miners hit a 3-pointer and then capitalized on a Lemoore turnover and scored on a perimeter shot to give themselves a six-point lead. It seemed like the dagger, but the Tigers would not go away quietly.
Back-to-back layups cut the lead to two and the Miners called a timeout with 1:08 to go and a 51-49 lead.
The Tigers had hurt themselves by turning the ball over in the last three minutes. There was a violation for running out of bounds, they stepped out of bounds and threw the ball away, but none was bigger than the one coming up.
With the Miners in possession, Lemoore forced the miss and grabbed the rebound with 38 seconds to go. They needed a basket to tie, a three to take the lead.
Instead, the Tigers moved up the court and made three hesitant passes before an errant pass in the lane went right to a Miners defender.
After the Miners made two free throws to extend their lead to four with 32.6 seconds left, the Tigers turned the ball over one more time to seal their fate.
Lemoore coach Joel Sligh was visibly upset after the game and said his players didn’t execute.
“We didn’t put ourselves in a position to take the lead and just didn’t execute,” Sligh said.
When asked what he wanted to improve for his next game he said, “everything.”
“Difference down the stretch was they just made more plays than us,” Hernandez, a forward, said. “We were competing hard. You've got to give your hats to them. They played really well.”
On the multiple turnovers at the end of the game, Hernandez said he wasn’t sure what was the cause of them, but possibly nerves.
“We’re still a really young team, but we’re going to fix those,” Hernandez said. “We’ll be fine.”
Ragunton thought his team wasn’t focused in the final minute and said, “I guess our team wasn’t experienced enough at the end of the game.”
Lemoore (13-11, 5-5 WYL) started the game cold and took over two minutes to make its first basket. The Miners (9-16, 4-6 WYL) used that to their advantage and went on a 9-2 run.
Lemoore got back-to-back steals and layups to cut the lead to three, but trailed 13-10 after the first quarter.
The Tigers’ shooting struggles continued in the second and the Miners went on a 13-3 run. A 3-pointer gave the Miners their first double-digit lead of the game. They followed it up with another long ball.
Hernandez’s 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in the half capped an 8-0 run to cut the lead to five. El Diamante hit a shot right before the half to lead 28-21.
“They just hit their shots,” Hernandez said. “We closed down and hands in their face, they hit a shot. You got to respect that. It was good defense just better offense.”
The Tigers cut the lead to one in the third with a 6-0 run, but the Miners responded with a 12-4 run for a nine-point buffer. Lemoore cut the lead to three on a Damien Goudeau layup and trailed 40-37 after the third quarter.
The loss keeps the Tigers in fourth in the WYL and the Miners in fifth. It was only the second loss at home for the team and their second consecutive WYL loss.
Lemoore will try and rebound on the road today against a struggling Golden West (9-17, 2-8 WYL) team that has lost three games in a row and seven of its last eight.