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Coyotes advance to Valley title game

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

The Madera Coyotes girls basketball team celebrates the sound of the final buzzer for a 49-45 semifinal victory over the Redwood Rangers on Wednesday in Joe Flores Gym. The Coyotes next play Friday at Corcoran for the Div. IV championship.


The resilient Madera Coyotes girls basketball team scored the final nine points of the game to punch their ticket to the Div. IV Central Section championship game.

The 14th-seeded Coyotes outscored the 15th-seeded Redwood Rangers 15-8 in the fourth quarter for a 49-45 victory in the semifinals. The Coyotes will face top-seed Corcoran in the championship game Friday at 6 p.m.

“Resilient is the word that describes this team the best,” head coach Jason Smith said. “No matter what has happened, we have had a ton of adversity all year long. We’ve battled injuries and illness in the first half of the season. We never really got to play as a team until the Bullard game at home. We stayed true to what we talked about. They never gave up. They always kept a positive attitude. They always worked for each other.”

Rhynne Mitchell led the Coyotes with 24 points. She had six rebounds and was 8-of-15 from the free throw line.

Inside players Aaliyah String and Jasmine Levy each scored eight points. String pulled down 11 rebounds and Levy had nine. The also combined for 13 offensive rebounds and six blocked shots. The Coyotes recorded 39 rebounds, including 14 on the offensive glass.

“We should have dominated inside,” Smith said. “I told Aaliyah she had a chance to have a big game tonight. It didn’t happen early, but man did it happen late. Jasmine had some real strong rebounds and that putback at the end was great. Through the third and some of the fourth, they were tougher than us. I told them you have to be tougher than they are if we are going to win this game. That’s playoff basketball. It’s going to be physical. We toughened up and got the job done.”

The Rangers lived by the 3-pointer for most of the game. They hit seven 3-pointers in the game, but hurt themselves by going 6-of-16 from the free throw line. Seneca Murillo kick-started the Rangers in the second half with 3-pointers on four straight possessions and led the Rangers with 17 points. She hit five of her team’s seven 3-pointers.

“I told them to quit losing her,” Smith said of Murillo. “I called two time out and the message was, ‘don’t lose 10.’ We kept losing here in zone. We weren’t a good man team in the first part of the season. We had to switch to man tonight and it came through tonight. It was huge.”

The Rangers scored the first eight points, including two 3-pointers.

Mitchell drove for a layup for Madera’s first points. Redwood put back a missed shot, but Aasyria Goins hit a 3-pointer to cut the Redwood lead to five. The Rangers scored down low for a 12-5 lead.

Madera closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run to tie the game. Mitchell started the run with a driving layup and a 3-point play. String put back a miss and Mitchell drove for a layup to tie the game.

Redwood put back a miss for the first bucket of the second quarter.

The Coyotes came back with a 3-pointer from Smith. Mitchell converted a 3-point play and String hit a four-foot jumper for a 20-14 lead.

Neither team scored for the next four minutes before Mitchell broke the drought with a steal and layup to extend the run to 10-0.

Redwood hit a jumper to cut the lead to six. However, the Coyotes closed the first half with a free throw from Mitchell. She missed the next free throw, but Levy was there and put the offensive rebound back for a 25-16 halftime lead.

Redwood opened the second half with two free throws and a short bucket.

Mitchell found String for a layup and a 27-20 lead. Redwood answered with a jumper, but Levy put back a Mitchell miss for a 29-22 lead.

However, Redwood’s Murillo hit 3-pointers on the next four possessions for a 12-0 run and a 34-29 lead. Madera missed six shots to try to get back.

Finally, String put back a Mitchell missed free throw to stop the run and cut the lead to three. However, Redwood hit another 3-pointer to get the lead to six.

Mitchell made a free throw and later made a layup, after a Goins tip on a pass and a Sara Luna steal, to cut Redwood’s lead to 37-34.

Redwood extended its lead to 41-34 with back-to-back buckets to open the fourth.

The Coyotes started to chip away with a Mitchell layup and a Smith 3-pointer to get the lead down to one.

However, Redwood got the lead back to four with three free throws over the next two minutes.

Mitchell sank a free throw to get within three, but the Rangers made two free throws with 3:29 left in the game for a 45-40 lead. The Rangers didn’t score for the rest of the game.

Levy put back a Mitchell miss to cut the lead to three. String missed a short bucket. Mitchell got the rebound and put up a shot while getting pushed to the ground. The shot fell through and Mitchell made the free throw for the 3-point play to tie the game at 45.

The Coyotes’ defense held tough. Erika Perez blocked a shot and came down with the rebound. Redwood missed a free throw with 1:14 left in the game and Perez came down with the rebound. Perez was fouled and went to the line.

Perez missed her free throw, but Levy got the rebound and missed the putback. However, she got her own rebound and put it back in for a 47-45 lead with less than a minute left in the game.

The Coyotes got a blocked shot by String on Redwood’s next possession. The Rangers got another chance to tie the game with 24.4 seconds left, but missed the free throw and Perez came down with a rebound.

The Rangers had to foul and sent Mitchell to the line for a one-and-one. She made both free throws for a 49-45 lead with 11.6 seconds left in the game.

Redwood got the ball up the court and called a time out with nine seconds left.

Redwood missed a shot, but was fouled on the rebound. The Rangers missed the free throw. The rebound was hit in the air and finally out of bounds as the final buzzer sounded to send the Coyotes to the championship game.



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