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Denair bests Hilmar in preseason contest
Both programs eyeing stellar year
Denair basketball
Austin Upfold of Denair High goes up for a block during Tuesday’s 63-44 win over Hilmar High from home (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

Two nearby programs that recently captured Sac-Joaquin Section Championships in football squared off on the basketball court on Tuesday night when Denair and Hilmar High clashed in a non-league contest that saw the Coyotes win 63-44.

For the first time this season Denair was playing with Elvis Silva and the two returning first-team all-league selections in Drew Pritchard and Steffin Winston.

hilmar basketball
Hilmar High’s Justin Barros drives down the court during Tuesday’s 63-44 loss to Denair High (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

“So there is a lot of rust out there, still looks like a scrimmage that might have happened about a month ago. But it was good for our guys that have been out a while to get some reps, to get some real stuff and try and get acclimated with the guys who have been playing together since late October and we will try to go from there,” said Denair head coach RJ Henderson.

Hilmar, which is still playing football in the state tournament, has had to deal without the help of many of its players.

“We have about eight guys still in football,” said Hilmar head coach Craig Peterson. “I want to get the system going, kind of like Denair has it all set up already, the kids come in and they fight the scheme, but I am really excited for the year.”

Last year Hilmar struggled when it came to league play after they won just two games out of 12.

They ended up going 9-18 overall, missing the postseason while also returning over half the squad into the new year.

With five games under their belt, Hilmar is currently boasting a 3-2 record and are hoping to keep the progress going with one of their leaders Will Tate eager for a standout junior campaign.

“We expect to be top three in league and make playoffs,” said Peterson. “It is always a team goal to make playoffs, but if that doesn’t happen, just be in the middle of the pack. Last year I had seven seniors and now I have five seniors this year, so I will have nine guys returning next year so the main thing is getting those guys ready to better by the end of the season and for next year.”

Denair is without a doubt hungry after a memorable season saw them finish in second in the Southern League with a 9-3 record and earned a playoff berth in the process.

So far this season Denair is off to a 2-3 start and are scheduled to play eight games from Dec. 6 through Dec. 15.

“Probably overkill with all these games in a short period of time, but December is sort of like that for all teams,” Henderson added.

Denair will next take on Turlock High for the Godinez tournament at a time yet to be determined on Thursday.

Hilmar will next travel to Pacific Grove High to take on the Breakers at 6:30 p.m. Friday.