Benny Munoz/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Eli Barrios drives the ball up the court during Saturdy’s victory over Reedley.
Behind hot shooting and team spirit, the Madera Coyotes boys basketball team escaped with a 55-54 win over the Reedley Pirates in a non-conference matchup in Joe Flores Gym.
After losing their County/Metro Athletic Conference opener to the Sanger Apaches the night before, the Coyotes rebounded with a 20-7 first quarter burst in their narrow victory over the Pirates on Saturday.
“We hit threes early, I can’t even remember how many we made,” Madera head coach David Lozano said. “They were firing away and making them, but Reedley made a run and we responded to that and came out with a victory. We just need to finish all four quarters. That is something we have to work on for the future.”
A combination of heart and strong play guided the Coyotes through their hot start, but also through the adversity in the second half.
“They stuck together throughout the entire game,” Lozano said. “Reedley is a tough team and they made us compete, but we kept fighting.”
Three players reached double figures in Saturdays game. Eli Barrios, Christian Aguilar and Alek Trukki combined for 35 of the Coyote’ 55 points .
“We count on them a lot,” Lozano said on his trio’s performance. “They can all shoot the ball, but Eli can get to basket and get to the line which provides us another dynamic.”
Barrios was the team’s leading scorer with 14 points, but his ability to consistently get to the foul line caused problems for the Pirates all night. Barrios reached the line six times, making 10 of 14 free throws.
Aguilar chipped in 11 points, but his three long-range shots were critical in the Coyotes’ first-half surge.
Madera opened the contest on fire. Whether it was from long range or inside the paint, the Coyotes had their way with the Pirates.
Aguilar had two crowd-cheering threes, while Barrios reached the line twice with his aggressiveness and sense for the basket. Madera couldn’t have asked for a better start after outscoring Reedley by 13 points.
Madera had a 20-7 lead entering the second quarter, but the Pirates had an answer for the home team.
Reedley came out of the break with a shooter’s touch much like the Coyotes. Augie Villarreal took the pressure onto his shoulders and brought the Pirates back into the game. Villarreal went to the free-throw line four times, while converting six of eight, but Villarreal also added a jump shot and a 3-pointer.
Villarreal had 11 points in the quarter to help Reedley outscore the Coyotes 22-15. Madera tried to keep pace with Villarreal, but couldn’t find enough scoring in the quarter.
Trukki, Aguilar and Kecian Primes each hit a 3-pointer in the quarter, but their overall play allowed the Pirates to make a comeback.
At halftime, the Coyotes led 35-29, but couldn’t recover from the Pirates’ second-quarter surge.
The Pirates came out of halftime and continued their strong play. Behind three long-distance shots, the Pirates took the lead and outscored the Coyotes 15-8 in the third quarter.
With everything on the line in the fourth quarter, Madera found themselves down 46-43, but they had their go-to man ready to take them home.
Barrios stepped up in the final quarter to rescue the Coyotes. His strength and aggressiveness around the hoop proved too much for the Pirates after Barrios went to the free-throw line three times including a two-point shot.
Although Barrios carried the bulk of the load — Trukki and Zachary Roque each had three points to help the Coyotes win a close game with a 55-54 win. The Coyotes outscored the Pirates 12-8 in the final quarter.
With a league game against the Edison Tigers up next, the Coyotes can take their momentum from their narrow victory into their league game coming up.
“Another home game and the players always play a little bit hard at home, it’s a little bit more special, but I certainly think we can carry that momentum to our next game,” Lozano said.