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Varsity boys basketball defeats Diamond Ranch on Senior Night

Varsity boys basketball defeated Diamond Ranch 58-51 in its last home league game during Senior Night Thursday, Jan. 31.

For the first four minutes of the game, the Panthers went on an 8-1 scoring run with two three-point shots and a mid-range jump shot. However, the Mustangs scored two fast break layups and a three-point shot to end the quarter 8-15.

“In the first quarter, we were off to a slow start because the other team made two threes. After that, we began to pick it up and play better basketball,” shooting guard junior Shaunte Casteneda said. “[Coach Khouzam] called a timeout and emphasized that we needed to close out on the shooter because they were making every [three-point shot] they put up.”

In the second quarter,  a combined 10 points from point guard senior Eli Ramos and shooting guard senior Michael Hoffmeier contributed to the Mustangs’ 13-6 scoring run. With 2:09 remaining in the quarter, forward junior Isa Al Juraishi completed a four-point play with a layup and two free throws off  of a technical foul, giving the Mustangs a three-point lead at the end of the first half.

“I was locked in and not letting my feelings affect my play because I knew it was going to be an emotional night for everyone. I tried to be more aggressive in each quarter,” Al Juraishi said. “All the focus was on [Ramos], so I was there for the open shots. On the court, I feel like we connect because we trust each other with the ball.”

During the third quarter, the Mustangs created a seven-point lead by scoring 14 points with three-point shots and fast break layups. Walnut also contested the Panthers’ scoring attempts, only allowing the Diamond Ranch five field goals.

“I was kind of nervous because my entire family was coming out. I just wanted to play well for them and didn’t want to disappoint,” Ramos said. “It was our Senior Night, and we really wanted to win.”

Throughout the fourth quarter, Walnut ran down the clock in most of its possessions and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line to end the game 58-51. Al Juraishi led the Mustangs on offense with 18 points, point guard junior Caleb Santos led in assists with eight assists and shooting guard senior Noah Leal led the Mustangs’ defense with seven rebounds and two steals.

“During the game, I thought to just keep pushing, keep playing hard and [keep] playing together as one. I feel like everyone did their job. [Al Juraishi] hit big shots, [Ramos] stepped up, [Leal] hit a big three —everyone just stepped up,” Hoffmeier said. “I felt excited and happy because it was Senior Night.”

By Jacob Khuu, Sports editor
Photo by Tristan Gonzalez