Imperial Valley Press
BASKETBALL: ‘Jackets and Tigers close out ‘23 season
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – With the State Championships Southern California Regionals underway, the Imperial High Tigers boys and girls basketball teams and Blythe’s Palo Verde Yellow Jackets girls are closing out the season after falling in the opening round of the state tournament.
The reigning 2023
CIF San Diego Section D-IV champions, the Imperial Tigers boys basketball team, were seeded ninth and competed in the Division V bracket of the state tournament. The Tigers stumbled 83-55 against the eighth-seeded North High Saxons.
The Tigers were led by David Scariano with 24 points and seven rebounds, followed by Giovani Robles’ ten points and three rebounds, while Jacob Milan, Kraig Rollins, and Jared Nixon each added four points.
The Tigers and Saxons battled it out in the first, with Imperial trailing by seven points, 12-19, heading into the second quarter.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds, but they played and we gave it our best and it just was not our night last night,” said Imperial boys basketball Head Coach Dave Milan. “We are still super excited that we were able to win a CIF championship and our league, I am still proud of the kids and everything they accomplished this season.”
The Saxons led by double- digits heading into halftime and did not let their lead dwindle throughout the remaining quarters.
“Us going this far and winning a championship has set a standard in Imperial,” Milan said. “It might be a little tougher division- wise next year, but we will start getting after it in about a month, and prepare for next year.”
As CIF SDS D-I Runner- up, the Imperial Tigers girls basketball team found themselves seeded at twelve and facing off against the fourth-seeded Hart High School Indians in the opening round of the regional playoffs.
While last season the Tigers competed in the D-IV bracket of the state tournament, this year they found themselves in D- II.
“It is difficult to know how your team will react after a difficult loss,
but we told the girls ‘ we have nothing to lose, let’s just go in and play team basketball and have fun,’” said Imperial girls Head Coach Rich Ponchione.
After a hard- fought four quarters, the Tigers were brought down by Hart by a score of 59- - 43
he lady Tigers kicked off the first quarter leading by a one- point margin, 14-13. The back- and- forth continued with Hart taking a six- point lead, 28- 22, heading into the half.
“The five- and- a- halfhour trip didn’t do much for our legs but we got off to a good start in the first half,” Ponchione said. “We came out strong in the third quarter, the girls were in it, they were playing hard, but at the end we had little mistakes that hurt us.”
The Tigers chipped away at Hart’s lead and headed into the fourth quarter trailing by four points, 35- 39.
The Tigers’ offense was led by Sierra Morris with.16 points, Nayeli TCardona added 10 points, Xiomara Cardona had seven points, and Amy Riley ended the game with six points.
“This is a special group of girls, to have as many seniors as we did makes it special,” Ponchione said. “Most of these girls started with Coach Cardona and I in seventh grade, so to stick with something for seven years kind of shows you how special this group is.”
“The benefit of success is it sets the guidelines and boundaries for future girls,” Coach Ponchione said. “The seniors on our team showed the girls who will be returning that this is what it takes to be a championship team; dedication, hard work, and effort.”
“It hurts right now, but after some time I think they will look back and be proud of how many things they have accomplished,” he said.
At home in Blythe, the ‘23 CIF SDS girls D-IV champion Palo Verde Yellow Jackets, who were seeded fourth, fell 53- 40 against the thirteenth-seeded Bishop Diego High Cardinals.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Mary Jane Dagnino with 24 points, Ruby Feliz followed with eight points, and Charlie Dagnino added six points to the offensive effort.
“We could not find our rhythm,” said Palo Verde Head Coach Irma Gonzalez. “Bishop Diego played us man most of the game and were in our face.”
At the half, the Yellow Jackets trailed the Cardinals 36-20. To end the third, the Yellow Jackets outscored the Cardinals eight to seven points.
The Yellow Jackets closed out the final quarter with 12 points.
“We’ve had a great season, our girls fought to the very end and played with heart,” Gonzalez said. “Back- toback league and division titles for the Lady Jackets. We have a lot to be proud of,” she said.