Monday’s 76-72 non-league overtime loss for Denair High at the hands of Natomas High was just a minor setback when it comes to the ultimate goal for the team, said head coach RJ Henderson.
The goal is a league title and the Coyotes are already ahead of schedule with a 5-0 Southern League record and have already beaten the defending champions, Mariposa High.
“We had some defensive breakdowns on Monday and I take ownership on that,” said Henderson. “It was a learning experience for all since we haven’t lost in over a month.”
The last loss for Denair was on Dec. 6, when they fell to Riverbank, 56-38. Since that time leading up to Monday, Denair went a staggering 14-0.
Denair started off strong on Monday, notching the first five points before Natomas even scored one.
By the time the clock hit 5:25 in the first, Denair was leading 7-1.
Denair went on a 7-6 run to end the first as they led 14-7 by the start of the second.
By halftime, Denair had built a 12-point lead at 36-24, with their second quarter run that saw them notch 22 points.
As the third quarter approached, the turnovers, fouls, missed shots, and silly miscues began to pile on for Denair.
Natomas cut the lead to within two points in the third at 42-40, before Denair took a 51-40 lead after the third.
Denair increased their lead to 13 points just 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, then Natomas went on to outscore Denair 10-5 in the next three minutes and 20 seconds.
Denair’s lead began to shrink as the game wore on in the fourth quarter.
Eventually Natomas began to make fewer mistakes and attacked the ball inside the paint, while their deep shots fell down the stretch.
Natomas followed up with a 9-5 run as they cut the lead to 63-60 with about 18.1 seconds left.
Then, with 9.1 seconds remaining, Natomas’s Aiyaun Willis-Lockhart dropped another crucial three-point shot after he made one earlier in the quarter and the game was tied at 63-63, heading into overtime.
Natomas outscored Denair in overtime, 13-9, as they snapped a three-game losing streak and won by four points.
This is the best start for the Coyotes since 2002.
In 2002 is when the Denair’s boys basketball program captured their first and only Sac-Joaquin Section title after they went 28-4.
Jacob Kuharski finished the game with a double-double after he added a team-high 18 points to go with 12 rebounds. Cooper Feldman finished the game with 16 points while Hayden Feldman added 14 points.
The next game for Denair is a league contest against Waterford from home at 7 p.m. Wednesday.