Minatare places fourth in state basketball: Players, coaches, return with trophy, medals, memories
     2015-03-19      By Roger Holsinger   
Photo by Roger Holsinger Photography/for the Citizen - The Minatare Boys Basketball Team end a great season March 14 at Lincoln Southeast High School after a comeback fell short against Riverside. The team ends the season with a 22-4 record and marks its first appearance at the NSAA State Boys Basketball Championships since 1945. Members of the team are front row, left to right, Yovan Perez, Juan Garfio, Teren Barnett, Adam Moreno, Alex Benavides and Gilbert Rodrigues. Back row, Head Coach Kyle Cotton, Chance McAllister, Javier Guerrero, Tyler Koke, Kyler Lane, Dominic Longoria, Jesus Ramirez, and Assistant Coaches Matt Korkow and JJ Ozuna. 
LINCOLN – After more than 70 years, the Minatare High School Boys Basketball team did what many people didn’t think they could.
Qualify for the state basketball tournament.
But guess what? They did.

While the tournament didn’t land the Indians into the championship game, the team came home with a fourth place finish, a trophy acknowledging their accomplishment and memories that will last a lifetime.

After winning their opening game with Paxton, the Indians fell to the Timberwolves of Exeter-Milligan and then Saturday’s heart-breaking loss to Riverside, 45-56.
Following the tournament, Minatare Head Coach Kyle Cotton said it was frustrating to end the season with a loss.

“It’s difficult to reflect (on the season) right now, but we have had a great year, we have done a lot of things that a lot of people haven’t been able to experience at Minatare in 70 years. So we gave the town something to be happy for, the school, the community. It just stinks that it ended this way,” he said.
Even though he had hoped to be playing in the finals Saturday afternoon, Cotton said ending the season with a 22-4 mark was something to be proud of, plus coming home with a trophy and medals.

“It hasn’t sunken in at this point. It’s disappointing the way it finished, but yeah, we won a game at state for the first time in 75 years, we played hard and we did our best. We have to be proud of what we accomplished,” Cotton said.
After the Friday setback, Minatare faced Riverside Saturday at Southeast High School. Riverside had lost the day before by 15 to the number one seeded Bancroft-Rosalie.
On paper, it appeared it could be a close contest.

As the contest opened, Riverside scored six quick points, but Minatare fired back with Guerrero scoring from the outside and Longoria scoring three buckets underneath. After one quarter, Minatare led, 8-7.

The Indians extended their lead as Guerrero and Garfio sunk free throws to give Minatare the 12-7 lead. Riverside fired back as Collin Martinsen scored a three-point play then Jake Kennedy tied the game up at 12 with 5:08 left in the first half. Guerrero hit a three-pointer to give Minatare the lead, but the Indians came up short for the rest of the quarter and went in at halftime trailing, 24-16.
As the third quarter opened, Perez got things moving with a three-pointer and Longoria scored. Garfio hit the three and Guerrero sunk a pair of free throws to cut the Charger lead to nine.

In the final quarter, McAllister’s put-back from a Garfio free throw helped and Perez added a pair of threes. McAllister scored again off a rebound and with 4:05 left to play, Riverside led, 46-40.
Riverside Coach Joe Imus then pulled his team into the corners to stall and force Minatare to foul. However, Riverside failed to convert on a number of charity stripe attempts, but the deficit Minatare had to face was too much as Riverside went on to win, 56-45.

Perez ended the game with 16 points, while Guerrero and Longoria each had nine.
Something that has hampered Cotton’s team all season was trying to put four quarters of basketball together. He said they came very close in the Paxton game to playing a complete game.

“We didn’t have all of our players firing at the same time for every game, which can be bad and good, but at this level you have to have everyone playing well to be successful and we didn’t,” he said.

As the season ends for the Indians, so does the high school careers for seniors Juan Garfio, Javier Guerrero, Chance McAllister and Tyler Koke, who have been playing together since grade school.

“They built the program from what it was, 5-12, and have been instrumental in moving us forward. We’re going to miss them a lot.”

In addition to his players, Cotton said he wanted to recognize the support his team received from the players’ families, fans, school faculty and alumni.
“We want to thank everyone that supported us. We couldn’t have done it without them. The parents, alumni, boosters, they all came and supported us and it was really a key to our success.”

The opening game was nothing less than a near heart attack for fans and players combined as Minatare edged past Paxton at Northeast High School, 53-52.
Minatare led at the end of the first quarter, 12-6, as Juan Garfio and Javier Guerrero sparked the tribe. Guerrero continued his scoring in the second quarter, but the Tigers of Paxton would not go away and took the lead with 3:06 left in the half and after leading in the first quarter, Minatare trailed 22-17 at halftime.

Guerrero came out and scored in the third period to cut the Paxton lead and then Yovan Perez hit the jumper as Minatare led 23-22. Tyler Koke and Garfio added buckets, but Paxton’s Justin Corfield hit from outside along with Chance Morland to give Paxton the 35-31 advantage after three quarters.

Garfio opened the final quarter with a three-pointer and Perez added two to cut the lead. Then Dominic Longoria added two from underneath and Garfio and Perez hit the treys and the game was tied at 47 with 2:17 remaining.
The lead changed hands a couple of times and with less than 10 seconds remaining, Paxton had a one-point lead. With less than five second remaining, Perez called for the ball in the corner and scored a three-pointer to give Minatare the 53-52 lead. Paxton nearly pulled off the final score as a Hail Mary pass to the other end nearly connected, but Minatare won and was headed to the next round.

The Indians had four players in double figures as Perez and Guerrero both had 14, while Garfio and Longoria each scored 10 points.
After that opening win, Cotton said everyone was happy. “It was the first win at state since 1940 and we were hungry for some more, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us to win anymore,” he said.

On Friday, Minatare faced the Timberwolves of Exeter-Milligan who beat number two seeded Wilcox-Hildreth by nine points. The Friday game was played at the Bob Devaney Sports Center and the Timberwolves controlled the game from the tipoff. Minatare managed to score five points in the first quarter as Longoria scored underneath and Guerrero hit a three-pointer. Exeter-Milligan led 13-5 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was not much better for the Indians as they scored just eight points from Chance McAllister, Guerrero and Perez. Minatare was down by 12 at halftime.

Minatare continued to struggle the second half as turnovers and poor rebounding stopped and hopes of coming back. That and the fact that Exeter-Milligan’s Derek Luzum and Kyle Jensen couldn’t miss. The two of them combined for 40 of Exeter-Milligan’s 60 points. Exeter-Milligan went on to win, 60-36. Guerrero and Perez led Minatare in scoring with 11 and 12 points.

Incidentally, Exeter-Milligan, the seventh-seeded team, went on to win the state championship over number-one seeded Bancroft-Rosalie, 67-62.
Cotton said that he believed playing at such a large venue as Devaney might have been a little intimidating for his players and that his players seemed to be coaching themselves.

“At that point I didn’t know who we were coaching. It was different than it was all year. It must have been the environment. We did not play very well. But you have to hand it to Exeter-Milligan. I thought they played extremely well. Every time we made a mistake, they punished us for it. They made wide-open shots and that’s what you have to do at this level,” said Cotton.

Minatare ends its season with a 22-4 record and the fourth best team in Class D2.

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