Minatare boys look forward after sub-district final loss
     2014-03-06      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/Sheila Weber Photography - Minatare junior Javier Guerrero fights his way through Leyton opponents on his way to the basket, while teammate sophomore Yovan Perez eyes the play during the Sub-District D1-11 final at Gering High School. Minatare boys ended their season with a 52-39 loss, bringing their record to 12-8.  
While the immediate emotions for the Minatare boys’ basketball team were of sorrow Thursday night, eventually the Indians likely will see just how successful their 12-8 season was.

Simply outplayed by a veteran Leyton team in the Sub-District D2-11 final at the Gering High School gymnasium, Minatare’s junior- and sophomore-laden team fell behind early and — despite three late-game rallies to within six points of the Warriors — had their season ended by free throws and a 52-39 loss.

For Leyton (17-5), the win meant its third straight sub-district title and a berth in Tuesday night’s District D2-6 playoff game against Cody-Kilgore (10-9) in Hay Springs. The Warriors lost in the district final the last two years but still advanced to the Class D-2 state tournament as a wild-card entry.

As for the Indians, perhaps next year will be their time, and the mission of ending a drought of not making the state tournament since 1945 might come into play. Minatare loses just one senior in Tylor Grumbles from a team that started the season 9-0.

“We had a lot of positives,” second-year Minatare boys’ coach Kyle Cotton said. “We’re a little disappointed right now, but they can be proud of what they accomplished. I’m not sure how many teams from Minatare have gotten this far.

“I told them they have to take this as motivation to get better. That’s what they need to do if they don’t want to have this feeling again.”

An 11-1 deficit could have left the Indians feeling pretty ill early on, and Leyton led in the first quarter by as many as 12 before Minatare junior Javier Guerrero hit a basket late in the period to cut the Warriors’ quarter lead to 19-9.

Leyton stayed hot behind junior Cody McCkay, whose 14 first-half points led the Warriors to a 29-14 halftime lead.

“We had to come out and pressure the ball,” Cotton said he told the Indians at halftime. “We had to make some things happen instead of sitting back and being so passive. We had to be more aggressive.”

Leyton scored on a first-possession bucket by senior Brennen Cruise to start the second half and extend the Warriors’ lead to a game-high 17.

The Warriors still led 37-22 with 3:39 left in the third, but the Indians held Leyton scoreless the rest of the quarter and got five points from Guerrero and two free throws from sophomore Yovan Perez at the start of the fourth period and had their deficit down to eight at 37-29 with 6:47 remaining.

Guerrero’s short jumper with 3:30 left pulled Minatare to within six at 38-32, and the Indians used Guerrero’s 3-pointer with 1:31 left to reel with six again at 43-37, but Leyton hit 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

“We got down by 17 and fought back within six and never stopped fighting,” Cotton said. “We played poorly in the first half and it caught up to us. But Leyton’s a good team, they played well and they just executed.”

The Indians got 18 points off six 3-pointers and nine at the free-throw line but were just 9-for-18 at the charity stripe.

Leyton wasn’t much better percentage-wise at the line, hitting 18 of 35, but the nine-point difference at the stripe proved decisive when the Warriors made 13 of their 15 fourth-quarter points on free shots on a still-shaky 24 attempts.

McKay finished with a game-high 18 points for the Warriors, including a team-best 6-for-8 on free throws.

Senior Dylan Brenner, despite making just 7 of 16 free shots, followed McKay with 15 points and Cruise added 13 points with 5 of 8 freebies.

For Minatare, Guerrero hit three treys on his way to scoring 17 points, while sophomore Dominic Longoria followed with 12. After Perez scored 13 in the Indians’ 44-42 semifinal win over Garden County on Tuesday night, he was held to just five points against Leyton.

“They’re all still pretty young and not experienced, and Leyton’s been here and that plays a huge factor,” Cotton said. “I just thought we played a little tight. Give Leyton credit; they played better than us.”

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