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Coyotes topple Eagles in Denair Tourney opener
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Denair's Austin Upfold battles Turlock Christian during Thursday’s non-league contest. The Coyotes won, 60-48 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Denair High boys basketball tournament kicked off on Thursday and with it the old Southern League rivalry between Denair High and Turlock Christian High, the two schools that share the same road squared off for the second time this season in a non-league match.

This time around, it was Denair that came out on the winning end after a 63-44 final to split the season series at 1-1.

“Personnel was different from the first game and for them as well,” said Denair head coach RJ Henderson.

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Denair's Hayden Feldman brings the ball down the court during the game against Turlock Christian Thursday evening (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“If we let this define us as men, we will have a long season and the neat thing about basketball is you get another chance immediately, Saturday, you don’t have to wait an entire week like football,” said TC head coach Travis Thompson. “So, it is good, short memory, we have seniors but we are trying to teach them and show them some things.”

Things looked good early on for the TC Eagles who toppled the Denair Coyotes back on Nov. 27 by a score of 60-48.

This time TC went up 13-8 in the first quarter, but Denair battled back to tie it at 16-16 by the start of the second.

Once the second hit, both sides battled back and forth and exchanged leads.

In the second there were five different lead changes alone as the score read 26-26 at halftime.

Following the break, Denair came out ready to play as they outscored TC in the third, 22-14 to take a 48-40 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Denair continued to rely on its leading scorers in Drew Pritchard and Steffin Winston. Pritchard scored 10 of the final 12 points for Denair in the third quarter.

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TC's Markie Delgadillo brings the ball down the court during the game against Denair (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“We prepared and woke up in the second half and played a lot better,” said Henderson. “Like I stated before, this is the deepest team I have ever had no doubt and we are getting contributions from freshmen to our seniors, to transfers and it was good to get everyone in the game.”

Once the fourth hit, Winston took over down the stretch — with the help of his teammates — as he was a rock inside the paint with rebounds, while he also contributed with 11 points for the game.

Pritchard finished with a game-high 17 points.

TC scored just four total points in the fourth quarter while Denair went on to score 15 points in the fourth alone.

“When you don’t have Zack (Silva) that is tough, that is 18 points per game basically, and then our guys didn’t want to rebound and then turnovers,” said Thompson. “I thought we took care of the ball more in the first game, but without Zack you have guys trying to step up and their one through one hurt us and good rebounding and we had some crucial turnovers.”

“I am happy and as a coach always some things you can nitpick, or film to watch, wasn’t our best game, it was a decent second half and something to build off of,” said Henderson.

TC’s Ethan Fisher tacked on 11 points, Micah Blomenkamp added seven and Gideon Hoag finished with a team-high 14 points.

Denair’s Mario Plasencia finished with eight points while Hayden Feldman finished with eight points of his own.

Denair is 5-5 after their first 10 games played while they have also won three of their last four.

TC is 5-4 after nine contests.

“We are trying to be positive with our guys and let them know it is a game but we have to get better and don’t let it define you,” Thompson added.

Denair will next take on Escalon at 2 p.m. Saturday.

TC will square off with Big Valley Christian at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Definitely pros outweigh the cons; we are deep but the cons are trying to get eight to nine guys who are asking for more minutes so as a coach you have to juggle that a little bit, different feel,” Henderson added.