Boys approaching team goals
Yuma High School’s boys basketball team is one weekend closer to finishing up a great regular season.
The Indians are 13-2 overall, and 5-0 in the Lower Platte Activities Association after rolling to wins over Merino and Caliche, last weekend. They have moved up to No. 2 in the CHSAAnow.com Class 2A Top 10, and more importantly saw an encouraging jump in their RPI to No. 5 (as of Thursday morning).
“It is good for the team to get recognized for what they have done, but it just comes down to if we continue to win games, we will continue to go up,” coach Dave Sheffield said.
Yuma now is alone in first place in the LPAA, and can claim the program’s second league title in four seasons with three league wins over the next week — all in The Pit.
First, though, comes one more road trip, today, February 8, to Brush for a nonleague game. The Beetdiggers are 11-5 overall and 5-3 in the tough Class 3A Patriot League. (They played at Valley this past Tuesday.)
“Brush has done well this season,” Sheffield said. “We are going to have to have a very strong defensive effort on Thursday. They have various guys that can shoot, and they attack the rim well.”
Then comes the final three league games, beginning Friday when Haxtun comes to town. The Bulldogs lost by one to Merino last Saturday, dropping to 3-2 in league play, 10-4 overall. However, they remain No. 9 in the RPI, so a Yuma win will be particularly helpful in that regard.
Also, a win puts the Indians one step closer to the league title, and the top seed for district.
They get the weekend off before preparing for a visit by the Holyoke Dragons on Tuesday. The Dragons are 9-7 overall, 4-1 in league play after blowing past Wiggins and then squeaking past Akron by two, last weekend. They are at Caliche today before coming to Yuma.
Yuma closes out the regular season next Thursday against Akron. Wins over Haxtun and Holyoke will secure the Indians at least a share of the league title and will earn them the top seed for district.
Sedgwick County is sticking right behind Yuma with a 4-1 league record, 14-2 overall. The Cougars are ranked No. 4 in the Top 10 and are No. 2 in the RPI. Yuma holds the tie-breaker over them by virtue of its win in Ovid two weeks ago.
Akron enters this week 3-2 in league play, Wray 2-3, Caliche 1-3, Merino 1-4 and Wiggins 0-6.
“We have put ourselves in a good position in the league thus far,” Sheffield said. “These last three league games we simply need to approach them individually, and as if we haven’t played them (Holyoke, Akron) earlier in the season.”
The Indians have won nine in a row since an overtime loss to Chase County in Imperial, Nebraska, in December. It has held its last eight opponents under 40 points.
That includes last Friday’s 62-28 win over Merino. It was just the third home game for the Indians. They took full advantage of the home floor, playing great defense, running the floor and getting the ball inside as they raced out to a 17-5 lead. It was 25-7 midway through the second when Sheffield started going deep into the bench.
Yuma led 30-11 at halftime, and 47-20 after three quarters. Everyone saw court time, and 10 players scored during the rout.
“Our energy and defense was very strong against Merino,” Sheffield said. “Our defense getting consistent stops allowed us to get out in transition. Offensively, we moved the ball well, which allowed us to attack the rim through the second quarter, which put Merino into significant foul trouble in the second half.”
Victor Mendoza had 13 points and four assists, Jake Chrisman 12 points, six rebounds and five blocks, Bryan Mendez seven points and two rebounds, Jesus Vasquez six points and three steals, Chase McCreath six points, nine rebounds and two blocks, Steven Wells six points, four rebounds and three steals, Connor Hixon five points and three rebounds, Rolando Caraveo three points and four assists, Chadron Coffield two points and two rebounds, Preston Blach two points, and Jonathan Rascon one steal.
Yuma shot 43 percent from the floor (20-for-47) while holding Merino to 17-percent shooting. The Indians recorded 14 assists and 14 steals, and committed only 12 turnovers. Merino committed 24.
The Indians’ good run through 2018 came to an end in the first quarter of Saturday’s game at Caliche.
The Buffaloes were doing everything right, while Yuma couldn’t seem to get anything going as it fell behind 17-5.
However, Sheffield switched the Indians to an extended 1-3-1 zone at the start of the second quarter. That seemed to get them going as they quickly cut into the deficit, eventually outscoring Caliche 16-2 for a 21-19 halftime lead.
Yuma kept pounding the ball inside to Chrisman in the third quarter, building its lead to 20 before Caliche hit some 3-pointers again late in the third.
The Indians kept rolling in the second half on their way to a 57-39 win, outscoring the Buffaloes by 30 after trailing 17-5 in the first quarter.
“On Saturday we acted like we had jet lag in the first quarter,” Sheffield said. “On both offense and defense we were out of sync. The greatest thing to take from the first quarter is the resilience that the team showed in the second. Going from down 5-17 to up 21-19 at the half showed a lot about these guys. From the second quarter on we did a good job of exploiting the mismatches that we had.”
Chrisman made 11 of 14 shots (79 percent) while finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds, six steals and five blocks. Mendoza had nine points, five assists and four rebounds, Hixon nine points and six steals, Vasquez eight points, four rebounds and four steals, Caraveo five points and two assists, Mendez one point, four rebounds and three assists, McCreath three rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and Coffield one rebound.
Yuma shot 51 percent despite making only three of 13 attempts from behind the arc, and made eight of 15 at the charity stripe. The Indians committed 27 turnovers, but helped make up for it with 23 steals, along with 15 assists, and holding a slight rebounding advantage.