Boys basketball: Mission Oak rolls to first EYL title as Tulare loses top big man Vernon
TULARE — History will record it as a 65-31 Mission Oak High rout of intracity rival Tulare on Wednesday night that clinched the outright East Yosemite League title for the host Hawks — their first in the program’s four-year history.
That said, it was downright bizarre.
First, fifth-ranked Mission Oak’s most valuable player — point guard and leading scorer Blake Shannon — arrived dragging his right leg in a black sweat outfit.
Out indefinitely with a slight tear of his patellar tendon, the junior averaging 19.9 points and 7.7 assists wasn’t expected to play after suffering the injury Thursday in a 74-34 win over Western.
Then, 36 seconds into Wednesday’s game, Tulare’s Keonta Vernon — merely the most powerful post player in the Central Section — collapsed to the floor with a severely sprained right ankle despite no contact on a defensive rebound.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound senior would limp in and out a few times, playing a total of 6 minutes, going scoreless with three rebounds.
This, for a Wyoming-bound player averaging all-state type numbers in scoring (24.8) and rebounding (17.1).
“Very unusual,” Mission Oak coach Myron Epps said. “Really odd to have both go-to guys not available. I saw Keonta go down and it was just one of those things you hate to see.”
Try this: The Hawks (23-3, 9-0), who already had beaten the Redskins 77-73 for the Polly Wilhelmsen Invitational title and 81-54 in the EYL’s first round, outrebounded Tulare 45-19 behind Matt Zorn’s 12.
Junior Bobby Alvarado shifted from off guard to the point, managed the floor well and led Mission Oak with 18 points. He routinely fed teammates inside in a region normally owned by Vernon.
“Keonta shouldn’t have gone back in, but it’s hard to tell him no,” Redskins coach Mark Hatton said. “It’s awfully big, that’s all I can say; his ankle is about twice the size as it should be. We’ll have a better idea what we’re looking at Friday.”
That day, to close league play, Tulare will play at Tulare Western while Mission Oak goes to Delano.
Then Saturday, seedings will be determined for the section boys playoffs, which will begin next Wednesday.
Tulare (20-6, 7-2), with only one D-I win — and that against 5-18 Clovis East — is probably looking at a No. 8 to 10 D-I seed.
Mission Oak, however, has positioned itself strongly for a No. 2 D-III seed behind Southwest Yosemite League champion Independence.
“I’ll be back for the playoffs — positive,” Shannon said.
By Andy Boogaard