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Denair edges Orestimba for first league win
Denair boys basketball
Jacob Kuharski of Denair High goes into the paint for a lay-up during Thursday’s 45-44 league win over Orestimba (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

Denair High varsity boys basketball is off to the best start in over a decade following their close 45-44 win over Orestimba High on Thursday to kick off play in the Southern League. 

“There are going to be games like this, and games where we don’t finish on the top end, it is just a learning lesson. But we need to string these games and wins together,” said Denair coach RJ Henderson. “It was a fight, game in the 40s, and the final shot looked like it was down and in, but probably a quarter of an inch off, but then a different story, happy to survive and move on.” 

With Thursday’s close win, Denair is now 13-1 overall and 1-0 in the Southern League. 

The game by game has them on a nine-game winning streak after Thursday’s win. 

So far, they have managed to outscore opponents, 859-631. 

“I think it is the core group of players that primarily have focused on just basketball,” said Henderson. “My first nine, my rotation of eight guys, are basketball-only kids and when you have that, and they commit, and the group of parents commits, and they are playing 100 games a year, not just in this area, so that is the No. 1 thing; the culture itself has led to this.”

On Thursday, the team faced some challenges they hadn’t seen all season long so far.

Denair boys basketball 2
Cooper Feldman of Denair High gets ready to pass the ball during Thursday’s 45-44 win over Orestimba High. (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

Aside from a six-point win over Hilmar, this was the closest win of the season so far for Denair and they responded. 

In the opening quarter, Denair came out ready to play and took a big 11-2 lead with 3:02 left in the first. 

With just under 80 seconds remaining till the end of the first, Orestimba went on a 7-0 run that cut the lead to 15-9 after the end of the first. 

Following a closer second quarter, Denair still managed to take the lead at the half at 22-15. 

By the end of the third quarter, Orestimba had cut the lead to 32-29 after they outscored Denair, 14-10. 

Once the fourth quarter hit, the turmoil and back and forth began. 

Denair went up by five in the opening 28 seconds, before Orestimba fought their way back to make it 34-33. 

Orestimba cut the lead to within one point on multiple occasions through the fourth quarter and eventually took a 41-39 lead with 2:58 remaining in the game. 

Jacob Kuharski of Denair then drilled his two free throw attempts, after missing two about a minute prior. This tied the game at 41-41 with 1:29 remaining. 

Jack Henderson was then fouled and drilled both free throws with 1:17 left till the end as they went up 43-41.

Orestimba took a 44-43 lead with 30 seconds remaining before Jordan Smith-Sires worked his way to the opposite end and under the basket put in a perfectly and gently placed lay-up for the go ahead to make it 45-44 with 10 seconds left. 

A timeout was called and Orestimba attempted multiple inbound plays, essentially getting off a shot in the final 1.9 as time expired, but the shot went in and popped out. 

“I thought they did a terrific job moving around our zone defense, that was the thing we hadn’t seen on film, they really worked the short corner well,” said Henderson. “We had a lot of dives at the basket and I am sure if they thought they could have finished more.”

Smith-Sires finished the first league game of the year with a team-high 14 rebounds to go with nine points. Cooper Feldman tallied a game-high 12 points for the Denair Coyotes. 

Before continuing league play, Denair will host Turlock Christian in a non-league game, at 8 p.m. Wednesday.