The Denair High varsity boys basketball team is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11 and the packed Coyote crowd on Friday night that included former players, coaches and plenty of family members, let it be heard as they cheered loudly from start to finish.
The team also clinched a second-place spot in the Southern Athletic League after handling Orestimba to capture their fifth straight win in an 83-61 final.
“Tremendous night for the two seniors that were in, Dylan Mann has been a four-year player for me and Justin Short has been a four-year player in the program and to go out like that,” said Denair head coach RJ Henderson. “With the biggest crowd we have had in this gym in six years… it’s a good thing.”
With the win, the Coyotes improve to 13-11 overall and 9-2 in the SAL. Denair is trailing only Mariposa, which remains undefeated in the SAL at 10-0 as of Friday.
Denair trailed early on Friday, but quickly turned it around. Orestimba led 14-12 after the first quarter, but that would be the final time they led for the remainder of the game.
The Coyotes went on to outscore Orestimba in the next three quarters.
The Coyotes led 31-25 at the half then extended that lead to 62-40 by the end of the third.
Three-point shots were the key to the Coyotes’ victory. In the second half alone, Denair made eight shots from behind the arc.
Denair’s Steffin Winston dropped a team-high 23 points. Drew Pritchard scored 21 points, while JT Smith added 14.
“We have grown almost every game, knock on wood, that is a good team we played against, which was playing for a playoff spot,” said Henderson. “We had contributions from everyone, I don’t know how many threes we hit, but it was somewhere around 12-13, and it wasn’t just one person, three or four distributed across.”
Denair’s next game will be their final contest of the regular season at home against first-place Mariposa at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
“We are super excited. We are having fun. Practices are different and you can see me smile a few times, which is not the easiest thing to do,” Henderson added. “There was not a lot of wins here the first few years, so it’s a grind and this is validation of those nine kids who put the work in and I’ve been blessed to be a part of it.”