Before the Tigers hit the court to send off their regular season, coach Devin Bailey had one question for them:
“Are you nervous?”
Saturday’s battle against the visiting Grant Union Prospectors would determine whether Stanfield would claim the No. 3 or 4 spot in the Blue Mountain Conference.
“I told them, ‘If you’re not nervous, there’s something wrong. You just gotta get past it. Get those nerves out and play how you always play,’” Bailey said.
And Stanfield, who didn’t let the Prospectors out of reach until the fourth quarter, ended their season with a 56-42 loss. But they didn’t go down easy, and made Grant Union fight for the win.
“That’s what I liked about it ― they never gave up,” Bailey said of his team. “They could’ve rolled over, but they didn’t.”
The Prospectors ran out to a 7-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes before senior Elias Esquivel and junior Mario Sanchez poured in 10 points for the Tigers, leaving them down 13-10 going into the second quarter.
Esquivel brought the Tigers within one point at the start of the second quarter, and Sanchez scored from outside the arc for a brief 15-14 Stanfield lead. A five-point run from Prospectors senior Jacob Vaughan and juior Tristan Morris sealed their 23-18 halftime advantage.
“They’re long and athletic,” Esquivel said his opponents. “And it helps that they’re all decent players. They can all shoot the ball, and they don’t foul.”
The Prospectors sunk two more buckets to start the second half, but the Tigers outscored them 10-6 in the third quarter to pull within one point of the lead once again.
“We had a lapse at the beginning of the game, but we came together and figured it out in the third quarter,” Esquivel said. “But then we just ran out of gas. It’s as simple as that.”
The Prospectors had a pair of six-point runs in the final quarter, and outscored Stanfield 27-14 to win.
“Basketball’s a game of runs,” Bailey said. “After our third quarter, when it got close, I thought we were going to flip the switch, but Grant Union was just hustling.”
Esquivel led his team for his final home game with 20 points, and Sanchez followed with nine.
“I’m glad we went out fighting,” Esquivel said. “That’s all I can say.”
The No. 4 Tigers (11-13, 7-5 BMC) ended the regular season at No. 4 in the Blue Mountain Conference.
Ending your season with a contest against the league’s No. 1 team might be an intimidating task.
“We knew Grant Union was going to be tough. They’re athletic and hard to contain,” Stanfield coach Daniel Sharp said. “We wanted to come out and play fearless, and for the most part, we did.”
In the end, the No. 5 Tigers fell 57-43 to the visiting Grant Union Prospectors in Blue Mountain Conference play.
The Prospectors ended the first quarter 10-4. They had a seven-point run in the second to make things even tougher for the Tigers. Stanfield managed 11 points against Grant Union’s 21 for the quarter, and took a 31-15 deficit into the locker room.
Three straight baskets from senior Allie Griffin brought Stanfield within four points of Grant Union with 1:52 left in the third quarter. But a six-point run, including a 3-pointer from Prospectors senior Kaylee Wright, broadened their advantage to 10.
Wright ended the night with 25 points.
“She was hitting those 3’s from 25 feet,” Sharp said of Wright. “That’s not easy.”
Tigers junior Nyah Tejeda had 10 of Stanfield’s 11 points in the final eight minutes, but Grant Union poured in 14 more to close out the game.
“It was a good way to end our season,” Tejeda said. “We came out and tried our hardest. Although, I think we could have done better shutting down their 3’s.”
Tejeda posted 16 points for the Tigers (12-12, 5-7 BMC), and juniors Kendra Hart and Kylee McClure each had six.
“Nyah is smooth,” Sharp said of the point guard. “She was motivated and driven tonight. She got pretty creative with that basketball.”