Small picture, that was close.
Big picture? The Porterville High boys’ basketball has had this East Yosemite League title all the way.
The Panthers ran the league table with two wins over crosstown rival Monache in less than 20 hours, clinching a third straight EYL championship with Saturday’s 63-60 victory over the host Marauders.
Saturday’s matinee victory came not long after the Panthers beat Monache 61-42 in a home game Friday. Given the short turnaround, you’ll forgive Porterville for looking a little sleepy the morning after a thunderous rivalry win.
“Closer than we should’ve been, but it’s a win,” said junior point guard Matthew Rivera, who led all scorers Saturday with 25 points. “Rivalry games are crazy. Anything can happen in these types of games.”
Anything almost did.
Porterville eased to a 34-23 halftime lead, and looked poised to run away from Monache just as it did on Senior Night. Instead, the Marauders cut the deficit to 5 points heading into the final quarter.
Granted, nothing tangible was at stake on Porterville’s end. The EYL title was clinched Friday night. Any impact on its Central Section postseason seeding would seem nominal at best.
But, this is a rivalry game. For the Panthers, there is never a good time to lose to the Marauders.
“Too close,” Porterville coach Lance Wallace said. “Give credit to Monache: they kept coming at us. They could’ve given up after (Friday) night’s game but they played tough and hung around.”
Porterville proved just a little bit tougher.
Rivera built some cushion immediately in the fourth quarter, his quick strike giving Porterville a 50-43 lead, and his steal for a finger-roll layup at the 5:21 mark giving the Panthers a 10-point edge.
“Matthew was big for us tonight,” Wallace said. “He’s a part of 4-5 kids on this team who’ve been watching this game since they were very, very young. They finally got their chance to shine.”
Monache senior Hassoon Sarwar did his all to tighten the gap, scoring all 10 of his points in the final 3 ½ minutes. His 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining made it a 61-57 game.
His basket came just after Panthers junior Garin Wallace’s slam dunk attempt hit the rim and went out of bounds. It didn’t take Wallace long to make up for the spirited miss.
Fouled with 8.7 seconds on the clock, Wallace made both free throws, thus rendering Sarwar’s final 3-point basket with 2 seconds to play not enough.
The Panthers could finally sigh in relief, knowing they would finish the league season a perfect 8-0.
Wallace finished with 12 points, and teammate Adam Daguman added 13 for the Panthers.
For Monache, Sarwar had 10 points to tie teammates Brandon Garcia, Sullivan Focke and Xavier Nava for the team lead.
Porterville (8-2, 8-0) 15 19 14 15 -- 63
Monache (0-5, 0-4) 9 14 20 17 -- 60
P: Gavin Wallace 12, Kayden Boosalis 4, Adam Daguman 13, Matthew Rivera 25, Erik Odsather 2, Jake Kroutil 6.
M: Brandon Garcia 10, Joseph Espinoza 4, Kaleb Salazar 8, Hassoon Sarwar 10, Matthew Barba 6, Jacob Sauceda 2, Sullivan Focke 10, Xavier Nava 10.