Hawks fall to MSHS Classic champions
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Israel Rivera tries to get a shot off during Friday’s game against Coalinga. He scored seven points in the loss to the Horned Toads.
The short-handed Liberty Hawks boys basketball team made the Coalinga Horned Toads sweat a little for the second time in less than a week, but couldn’t keep up with their freshman sensation.
Coalinga freshman Julius Olanrewaju scored a game-high 36 points in Friday’s 68-56 victory over the Hawks.
Liberty’s Dante Ciritella made a valiant effort to keep pace with Olanrewaju. He scored 20 points with five 3-pointers and pulled down five rebounds to keep the Hawks close.
Max Vestal scored 13 points and Jaylen Rosentiel added 10 for the six-man Hawks. Five of the six players scored for the Hawks.
“It was tough not having our center (Chris Baltierra) tonight,” head coach Johnny Gonzales said. “We needed more scoring in the paint. The boys, with only six guys, played hard. They just kept pushing through. We got it down to fpir. These guys played with a lot of heart. I’m happy we’ll get our guys back.”
The Hawks lost to Coalinga on Dec. 13, 61-52. Olanrewaju scored 33 in the nine-point win. However, the Hawks have been without reigning Madera Tribune boys basketball Most Valuable Player Carson Stephens for the past two weeks. His addition could push the Hawks over the top to win close games.
The Horned Toads defeated Buhach Colony-Atwater on Saturday to remain undefeated on the season and win the tournament title. Liberty defeated Minarets on Saturday.
The Hawks fell behind 28-18 in the first half. However, they kept pace with the Horned Toads, only getting outscored 40-38 in the second half.
After a bucket from Israel Rivera and a 3-pointer from Ciritella tied score at five, Coalinga scored the next five points for a 13-5 lead.
Ciritella closed the first quarter with a 3-poitner to cut the lead to five.
Coalinga scored the first bucket of the second quarter, but the Hawks went on an 8-0 run.
Harmen Singh put back a miss to start the run. Rosentiel and Ciritella hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 16-15 Hawks’ lead.
After Coalinga hit a 3-pointer, Rosentiel tied the score with a driving bucket.
The Horned Toads closed out the first half with a 10-0 run for a 28-18 halftime lead.
Coalinga opened the second half with an 8-1 run to extend its lead to 36-19.
Rivera hit a 3-pointer, but the Horned Toads answered. Vestal put back a miss, but Olanrewaju hit a 3-pointer.
Ciritella made a layup and Rivera turned a steal into a layup. Olanrewaju put back a miss, but the Hawks got a jumper from Singh and a 3-pointer from Ciritella. However, Olanrewaju scored twice to keep a 15-point lead.
Ciritella closed the third quarter with a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 48-36.
Vestal opened the fourth quarter scoring with a 3-pointer, but Coalinga hit a jumper and put back a miss for a 13-point lead.
Ciritella made a free throw, Rosentiel hit a 3-poitner and Vestal made two free throws to cut the Horned Toads’ lead to seven. After an Olanrewaju free throw, Vestal made two more to cut the lead to six.
Coalinga made a layup, but Singh found Rosentiel for another layup. Singh added a pair of free throws to cut the lead to four with four minutes left in the game.
Then, Olanrewaju scored six of the game’s next 10 points to extend Coalinga’s lead to 10.
A free throw opened the lead to 11. Vestal cut the lead down to eight with a 3-pointer, but the Horned Toads closed the game with a pair of free throws for a 68-56 victory.